What is Sodium Thiosulphate Used for and How Does It Work?

Sodium Thiosulphate: An Overview

Sodium thiosulphate (sodium thiosulfate) is an inorganic chemical compound described with the formula Na2S2O3. It is mostly found in the pentahydrate form, hence, referred with the chemical formula Na2S2O3.5H2O. It is an industrial compound which has long been used in a wide range of medical applications, especially as an intravenous medication for metal poisoning. It shows non-toxic effects, thus, employed as a food preservative too.

The global market of sodium thiosulphate witnessed a positive growth over the past few years due to its high demand from various end-use industries. The increase in the market size is also increasing due to the ever-increasing demand of sodium thiosulphate in the medication applications. Emerging technological advancements also aid the growing global sodium thiosulphate market.

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Properties of Sodium Thiosulphate

Physical Properties of Sodium Thiosulphate

The physical properties include:

AppearanceWhite, crystalline solid
Molar mass158.11 g/mol (anhydrous) 248.18 g/mol (pentahydrate)
Density1.667 g/cm3
Boiling point100° C (pentahydrate)
Melting point48.3° C (pentahydrate)
Solubility in water70.1 g/100 mL (20° C)
231 g/100 mL (100° C)

Chemical Properties of Sodium Thiosulphate

Chemical properties include:

  • The sodium thiosulphate salt possesses a neutral charge.
  • Under standard conditions, the sodium sulphate salt is stable. But at higher temperature it decomposes to sodium sulphate and sodium poly sulphate.

                             4Na2S2O3 ⟶ 3Na2SO4 + Na2S5

  • Sodium thiosulphate dissociates in water and other polar solvents to yield Na+ and S2O32-

                                Na2S2O3 + H2O ⟶ Na+ + S2O3

                                Na2S2O3 + 2HCl ⟶ 2NaCl + SO2 + H2O + S

  • Sodium thiosulphate undergoes alkylation to yield S-alkyl thiosulphates commonly referred to as Bunte salts, which are further used as intermediates in the synthesis of thiols.
  • The reaction of equimolar amounts of sodium thiosulphate and aqueous iodine solution is popularly used in laboratories for titrations involving iodine.

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Production of Sodium Thiosulphate

Sodium thiosulphate is generally prepared in the laboratory by heating sulphur with an aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide, or by using aqueous sodium sulphite.

6NaOH + 4S ⟶ Na2S2O3 +2Na2S + 3H2O

The compound prepared is stable under the standard conditions of temperature and pressure. However, when it decomposes, it produces toxic fumes of sulphur oxide.

Uses of Sodium Thiosulphate

Sodium thiosulphate is an important chemical used in a wide range of industrial and medical applications. Some of the popular uses are include:

  • Sodium thiosulphate is used as a cleaning agent. It is prepared by dissolving sodium thiosulphate in large amount of warm water.
  • It is widely used as a fixing agent in photography, where it helps in dissolving the silver salts from the photo negatives.
  • It is used in a wide range of industrial applications.
  • It is used in gold extraction from the ores, where it forms the liquid medium for the hydrometallurgical process.
  • It is popularly used for dechlorinating ponds and aquarium.
  • It is used in industrial reactions as a chemical heating pad.
  • It is used in industrial water treatment.
  • It is as neutralizing bleach.
  • It plays an important role in large scale leather tanning process.

Medical applications of sodium thiosulphate

  • It is widely used as the medical treatment for cyanide poisoning.
  • It is used medically to treat dermatophytosis (ringworm) and tinea versicolor.
  • It finds use in treating the side-effects of chemotherapy.
  • The side-effects of hemodialysis, the treatment for blood purification, are treated with sodium thiosulphate.
  • It is used as a topical antifungal treatment for fungal infection.

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Warnings & Precautions for Sodium Thiosulphate

Sodium thiosulphate is a non-toxic chemical but can cause slight irritation on exposure to skin and eyes. In case of large amount of chemical ingestion or inhalation, it can be hazardous. Hence, it is important to use appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE), proper handling protocols, and well-ventilated space while working on the chemical. Make sure to use safety glasses, lab coat, gloves, and certified dust respirators. In case you are working with operations that generate dust, fumes, or mist, use space that offers well ventilation to remove any airborne contaminants.

First Aid Measures

In case of exposure to sodium thiosulphate, follow the below first aid measures.

Eye contact: In case of contact with eyes, remove any contact lenses, and flush the eyes with plenty of cold water at least for 15 minutes. Visit a doctor if the irritation persists.

Skin contact: Cut off cloth in the exposed area and wash it with soap and cold water. Apply an emollient on the skin in case of any further irritation. If the irritation still persists, get medical help immediately.

Inhalation: In case of inhalation of the fumes of sodium thiosulphate, move out the area and get some fresh air. If breathing gets difficult, give oxygen and get medical help immediately.

Ingestion: In case of ingestion, loosen the collar, tie, or the waistband of the person and take him/her to doctor immediately. Inducing vomiting is strictly a NO; never give anything to an unconscious person through mouth.

In case of accidental spills, use appropriate tools to clean the mess and dispose of in the approved waste disposal containers. After cleaning, make sure to finish off the process by washing the contaminated space with plenty of water to remove even the slightest trace. On disposal of the waste, ensure that your waste disposing protocol meets all local and regional authority requirements.

Handling and Storage

Sodium thiosulphate should be stored in tightly closed containers; placed in cool, well-ventilated room away from direct sunlight. It should always be kept away from its incompatible chemicals such as acids, alkalis, and oxidizing agents.

While handling the chemical wear suitable protective clothing. Do not breathe dust; in case of insufficient ventilation, wear the necessary respiratory equipment.