Sodium - Precautions

Precautions

Care is required in handling elemental sodium, as it generates inflammable hydrogen and caustic sodium hydroxide upon contact with water; powdered sodium may combust spontaneously in air or oxygen. Excess sodium can be safely removed by hydrolysis in a ventilated cabinet; this is typically done by sequential treatment with isopropanol, ethanol and water. Isopropanol reacts very slowly, generating the corresponding alkoxide and hydrogen. Fire extinguishers based on water accelerate sodium fires; those based on carbon dioxide and bromochlorodifluoromethane lose their effectiveness when they dissipate. An effective extinguishing agent is Met-L-X, which comprises approximately 5% Saran in sodium chloride together with flow agents; it is most commonly hand-applied with a scoop. Other materials include Lith+, which has graphite powder and an organophosphate flame retardant, and dry sand.

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