Copper sulphate is a very useful compound. However, needless to say, this chemical becomes an irritant to highly toxic depending on how it is handled. Well, all substances, even water becomes toxic. Toxicity depends upon the amount and proper usage.
Copper sulphate is a fairly stable compound which means it does not readily react with other substances. It is not flammable or combustible. But it is an environmental pollutant and must be carefully incorporated when used in its varied applications.
Initial exposure to Copper Sulphate causes irritation of eyes, nasal passages, and skin. The skin irritation involves itchiness and redness. Upon initial inhalation coughing and difficulty in breathing occurs. The substance is also a gastrointestinal tract irritant. It causes vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain and cramps, loose bowel movement, and a metallic taste. At large doses of accidental intake renal failure, comatose and even death can occur. Long term exposure to Copper Sulphate may lead to liver damage, lung diseases, and decreased female fertility.
Copper occurs naturally in the soil and water. Its presence in minute concentrations is necessary for plant and animal growth. But at high concentrations copper and its compounds may pose some threat. Decreased lifespan, problems in reproduction, decreased fertility, and alteration of behavior and appearance are seen in animals, birds, fishes, and plants that are exposed to Copper Sulphate. This environmental pollutant may find its course from one organism to another in what is called bioaccumulation or biomagnification.
Proper handling of Copper Sulphate is therefore required to avoid negative effects that may accompany otherwise.
1. The storage must be in cool, dry area with sufficient ventilation. Alkalis, magnesium, ammonia, acetylene, and sodium hypobromite are some of the substances Copper Sulphate cannot be kept with. The container must be kept tightly closed. Carefully wash hands after using the compound and most especially before eating or drinking.
2. Wear protective clothing, impermeable gloves, and rubber boots to avoid skin contact. Eye protectors like goggles should be worn too.
3. Working areas must be well aerated. This avoids fumes or mists of Copper Sulphate to accumulate in one area.
4. If possible protective masks should be worn to avoid inhalation.
5. Disposal of copper wastes into waterways is a violation. High concentrations of copper in rivers and streams are toxic to aquatic ecosystems.
The following measures may be done in case of contact:
1. In case of eye contact, flush the affected eye right away with gently running lukewarm water for about 20 minutes. Hold the eyelids open. Make sure the water is clean. If the affected person wears a contact lens, do not hesitate removing it. Seek medical help.
2. In case of contact with skin, the contaminated clothes, pants, shoes, etc. must be removed. Gently wash the area in clean, lukewarm running water for five minutes. Get medical help fast.
3. In case of accidental inhalation, remove the victim from the area into open air and then seek medical assistance.
4. If a person has ingested Copper Sulphate, allow the victim to drink 60 to 240ml of water. The victim may vomit. This is the natural way of the body to eliminate the foreign substance. Rinse his mouth with water. However, never force the victim to drink water if unconscious.
Spillages of Copper Sulphate are health hazards. The area must be isolated and any attempt of entry by unauthorized and unprotected persons should not be permitted. Small spills may be mopped and wiped off. Large volumes of spilled Copper Sulphate can be neutralized with sodium carbonate or soda ash. Properly dispose the waste materials after. Contamination of this substance in the ground, streams, and sewers must be prevented. The substance is a known pollutant at certain levels.