Banned chemical to absorb flood water being promoted on social media
Thrissur: A malicious campaign in social media promotes a chemical banned in developed countries, claiming it can be used in flood clean-up process. Sodium polyacrylate, which is a superabsorbent polymer, is widely promoted as the solution to clean the flooded houses. Many a people visit shops in search of the chemical trusting the fake message.
Sodium polyacrylate can indeed absorb water. It has the capacity to absorb water upto 200 times of its weight. This chemical powder is the polymer version of acrylic acid. It is available in shops in the form of a compound of sodium, potassium and calcium, but is meant for using in chemistry laboratories.
When polyacrylate comes in contact with water, it turns into a gel. It is used in low quantity in napkins and diapers to absorb moisture. However, Sodium polyacrylate is capable of causing all environmental hazards caused by plastic.
Once the powder is turned into gel after absorbing water, it may need to be dumped in soil. But the gel does not dissolve into soil resulting in pollution.
Also it is rather difficult to remove the water after the polymer turns into gel. It requires all precautions to be taken while handling a chemical. Polyacrylate acts as a poison when consumed into the body and it absorbs even blood.
Dr. Lisa Sreejith, professor of chemistry in Kozhikode NIT, said that the last country that banned polyacrylate was Israel due to its negative impact on the environment. Though it was considered to be used in the water purifying research in Kozhikode NIT, later we dropped the idea. We advise not to use polyacrylate because we are familiar with the researches related to it, she added.