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Aluminum sulfate sources, health risks

Thursday, October 05, 2017 by

Aluminum sulfate is a type of aluminum salt that contains white crystalline solid features. The compound is both water soluble and noncombustible, according to an entry posted on the open chemistry database Pub Chem. The chemical is known to possess strong absorption capacity. The odorless compound tastes slightly sweet, but turns a yellowish-green tint and slightly acidic taste when used in a variety of industrial products due to its iron content.

An entry featured on the Chemical Book website noted that aluminum sulfate is commonly used in the production of precipitating agents, fixing agents, and fillers in water purification systems that filter turbid water. Likewise, the cosmetics industry uses the chemical as an antiperspirant agent. Aluminum sulfate is also utilized as a paper sizing material, leather tanning agent, and mordant as well as purifying agent and foam fire extinguisher material.

Aluminum sulfate also plays a central role in other industrial purposes such as alum production, oil bleaching, and food curing as well as water treatment, waterproofing, and fireproofing.

Harmful effects that can be caused by aluminum sulfate

The New Jersey Department of Health has included aluminum sulfate in its Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet due in part to its adverse effects on the body’s overall health. According to the agency, the compound is also cited in the Right to Know Hazardous Substance List as many health and safety organizations — such as Health Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — have previously labeled the chemical as such.

According to the fact sheet, short-term exposure to the chemical may lead to both skin and eye irritations. The compound is known to leave a rash and burning sensation when in contact with the skin. Likewise, the chemical is found to be corrosive to the eyes when in a water solution.

Aluminum sulfate is also known to trigger harmful effects on the upper respiratory tract. Repeated exposure to the compound is shown to cause irritation of the nose and throat, which in turn may result in the onset of wheezing and persistent cough. The chemical is also found to cause lung irritation. This then triggers the development of bronchitis and shortness of breath.

The fact sheet then shared a few best practices to prevent aluminum sulfate exposure such as:

  1. Wearing gloves and personal protective equipment when handling the chemical.
  2. Using eye protections such as shades and goggles.
  3. Using respirators only when needed.

Body systems harmed by aluminum sulfate

Occupational exposure to aluminum sulfate is strongly associated with adverse effects on the respiratory tract. Likewise, the toxic chemical is detrimental to skin health. The compound is also particularly harmful to the eyes when used in a water solution.

Where to learn more


Aluminum sulfate is detrimental to both the skin and the eyes.

Aluminum sulfate triggers irritation of the nose, throat and lungs.

Aluminum sulfate causes the onset of wheezing and persistent cough.

Aluminum sulfate also leads to bronchitis and shortness of breath.

Aluminum sulfate affects the respiratory tract, skin and eye health.

Sources include:


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