Safety Precautions When Handling Sodium Permanganate

Potassium Permanganate

Sodium permanganate is a versatile chemical compound with many valuable applications, especially for in situ remediation. But like most chemicals, it can harm one’s health and the environment when used in excessive amounts or poorly handled. It’s crucial, therefore, that those entrusted with handling sodium permanganate are well-informed about its risks and knowledgeable of the best practices for safe use and disposal.

What Is Sodium Permanganate?

For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with sodium permanganate, it is a powerful chemical oxidizing agent commonly used for in-situ remediation projects. 

Sodium permanganate (NaMnO4) is available in liquid form and used to treat soil and groundwater contaminated with chlorinated solvents like tetrachloroethene (PCR), trichloroethene (TCE), dichloroethene (DCE), vinyl chloride (VC), and carbon tetrachloride (CE). These industrial chemicals are used for cleaning metals and manufacturing perfumes, thermoplastics, and PVC products. 

Thanks to its oxidizing properties, sodium permanganate proves helpful in the following applications:

  1. Water treatment – As an oxidizing agent, sodium permanganate attracts and removes electrons from the molecules of other elements and chemical compounds. As a water treatment agent, sodium permanganate breaks down the molecules of contaminants like manganese and iron. Water treatment plants use it to address contamination issues like foul odors, unpleasant taste, and discoloration. 
  1. Soil remediation – Just like how sodium permanganate treats water, it oxidizes soil contaminants by breaking down contaminants to allow their natural degradation. It can help lower high pH levels and has even been used as pre-treatment for soil contaminated with oily sludge from petroleum hydrocarbons. 
  1. Industrial cleaning – Thanks to its oxidizing qualities, sodium permanganate is excellent for cleaning industrial machinery, equipment, and tools. Stubborn hydrocarbons and oil stains are easier and faster to remove from industrial tools when pre-treated with the compound. 
  1. Disinfection – A lesser-known use of sodium permanganate is for disinfection purposes. It’s not a primary disinfectant like chlorine. However, being a strong oxidant, it is used as a disinfectant in water treatment and has some medical applications.

Given its numerous applications, care must be taken when coming into contact with the substance. Unpleasant side effects can occur if one is ill-prepared against the compound’s toxic qualities.

Effects of Excessive Exposure to Sodium Permanganate

To fully understand the importance of learning proper handling techniques for sodium permanganate, let’s briefly discuss its adverse side effects on human health.

Single exposure to the vapor can be enough for some people to experience respiratory tract irritation. People can experience a burning sensation in the chest, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and headaches. Some may develop laryngitis and pneumonitis. 

Direct and prolonged contact with the liquid can damage the skin and cause irritation at best and burns at worst. Skin contact can also leave behind noticeable brown stains. 

Permanganates are generally harmful and can severely damage the mucous membranes in the eyes and the upper respiratory tract. They can cause inflammation and edema in the larynx and bronchi. 

Chronic poisoning due to prolonged or repeated exposure to the manganese in the compound can also lead to problems with the central nervous system (CNS). Patients will show symptoms like sleepiness, hazy mental acuity, weakness of the legs, balance issues while walking, and emotional irregularities like uncontrollable laughter. 

These are the most documented and widely observed behaviors and symptoms of people exposed to sodium permanganate. Other symptoms may emerge that are unique to a person’s health and whether they have pre-existing medical conditions. 

All the symptoms mentioned thus far can lead to serious health problems. Learning the safe and proper methods of handling sodium permanganate is crucial to avoiding them and protecting one’s health. 

Tips for Handling Sodium Permanganate Safely

If you handle this chemical compound or work near storage units filled with it, here are some best practices that protect you from its adverse effects.

  1. Wear protective personal equipment (PPE) – Ideally, employers must provide workers who are directly exposed to sodium permanganate with a complete set of protective clothing. A complete set includes gloves, goggles, footwear, full-face respirators, and protective coats or aprons. Those who handle a high concentration and volume of the compound are recommended to wear a full-body suit. 

PPE is necessary because it protects against accidental spills and splashes. Remember, the eyes and nose are particularly vulnerable to sodium permanganate vapor and liquid, so having a protective, physical barrier over the face is essential when handling the compound.

  1. Store in proper containers – Sodium permanganate is best kept in secure, tightly closed containers. Polyethylene containers, IBC totes, and plastic-lined steel drums are excellent containers for this compound. Each container should have a stable base to keep it from tipping over when physically moved or aboard a moving vehicle.
  1. Keep the containers in dry, well-ventilated storage spaces – Experts recommend storing containers of sodium permanganate in cool, dry, and well-ventilated rooms or storage places. You may keep opened containers together with sealed ones, but make sure to reseal them tightly to prevent leakage.
  1. Handle the compound in a ventilated room – Ventilation is essential for storage and when using sodium permanganate. It’s best to work in a place with a fume hood or effective air extraction system to help keep you from inhaling the toxic fumes. 
  1. Keep flammable materials and chemicals away – Sodium permanganate is non-combustible. However, it can amplify the heat and accelerate the burning of combustible materials. It is also explosive when it comes in contact with sulfuric acid. So, whether you’re working with the compound or storing it, make sure there are no combustible liquids and materials nearby. Moreover, prohibit smoking and open flame inside the storage and work facilities. 
  1. Contain and neutralize spills – In case the chemical accidentally spills, do the following as quickly as possible:
  • Don complete protective gear.
  • Righten the container immediately to prevent more liquid from spilling.
  • Contain the spill by directing the liquid into a pit or container. Alternatively, lay absorbent materials around the spill to prevent it from spreading. Don’t allow the spill to enter drains. 
  • Collect the spill and keep it in a separate container for disposal.
  • Collect the absorbent materials used to contain the spill and place them in a separate receptacle.
  • Contact your local waste disposal authority and ask for guidance on how to dispose of the spill and cleaning materials properly.
  • Small spills can be neutralized with a 50/50 mixture of 3% hydrogen peroxide and acetic acid. Dilute until there is no visible purple/pink color.
  1. Follow proper disposal procedures – Sodium permanganate is toxic to the environment. Fortunately, we can make it less harmful by neutralizing the compound with bisulfates and ferrous salt solutions or a 50/50 mixture of 3% hydrogen peroxide and acetic acid. Dilute until there is no visible purple/pink color before forwarding the contaminated materials to waste disposal facilities. 

Some states allow diluted concentrations of sodium permanganate into sewers and drainage systems. In this case, flush the compound with lots of water to weaken and minimize its environmental impact further. Consult your local authorities about regulations and guidelines on the proper disposal of sodium permanganate to be sure. 

Here are other precautionary measures and tips to avoid contact with the compound:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling the substance and its containers.
  • Avoid drinking, eating, or doing anything that would require removing the protective gear over your eyes, nose, and mouth while handling the compound.
  • At the very least, wear gloves and face protection when handling the compound.
  • If your clothes are accidentally splashed with the compound, wash them thoroughly before wearing them again.

What happens if you or someone you know becomes exposed to sodium permanganate? The first thing to do is call your company’s in-house medical team or 911. Next, do the following while waiting for the EMTs or paramedics to arrive:

  • If the substance was swallowed, rinse the mouth thoroughly to remove all traces of the compound from the oral mucosa or the lining inside the mouth, cheeks, and lips. There’s no need to induce vomiting. 
  • If the substance enters the eyes, rinse carefully with clean water for several minutes or until the feeling of discomfort disappears.
  • If the liquid soaks through clothing, remove the contaminated articles and rinse the skin with running water. 
  • If the fumes were directly inhaled, the person should sit outside where there’s fresh air and breathe deeply for several minutes. 

All chemicals need careful handling and attention to avoid accidents and health-related mishaps. There will always be a risk of exposure, but you can minimize the danger by observing safety precautions and following the best practices in handling sodium permanganate

For more information on how to handle sodium permanganate safely, contact CAP Remediation. We are a trusted source of in-situ remediation and rehabilitation chemicals and specialize in products for treating chlorinated solvents and hydrocarbon contamination. We offer exceptional customer service and expertise overseeing time-sensitive projects, serving customers across the US, Canada, and other countries. 

Contact us for more information.