E222 Sodium Bisulfite

Sodium hydrogen sulfite or acid sodium sulfite are other names for this sodium salt of sulfurous acid. Chemical formula is: NaHSO3

This sulfite is used in similar ways like the previous ones in food processing and manufacturing, but this one has more industrial uses as well and is used in pharmaceutical research.

I am warning you, this is going to be a really long post, but you also need to know the following facts.

Have you ever felt weird when you have entered in a shop that sells only leather goods? You are probably super sensitive and you might be reacting to the Sodium bisulfite in leather products. It is used to make the leather products softer, wearable, waterproof and longer lasting.  So should we not wear the new leather shoes ? Good question. I have had bad experiences with new leather products in the past so I know that those who are more sensitive can react. I think it is your personal tolerance level which will tell you if you can use them.

Water. I am one of those persons who need to drink a lot of water daily, but finding a safe water to drink is getting harder. Sodium bisulfites are used to treat not only the waste water, but also the drinking water. Sodium bisulfite is used to assist the dechlorination of drinking water, and also as in the chlorine removal in waste waters. And in swimming pools. Sometimes the pool gets too much chlorine in the cleaning process and one way to get rid off it is to add some sodium bisulfite to the pool water. Sodium bisulfite is used to clean the water pipes and it is added to large piping system for preventive measures as well. Many companies which produces distilled water from tap water, yes we all know the brands, use various forms of sulfites as cleansing and sanitizing method. One reason? It is cost effective.

Pharmaceutical industry uses different type of sulfites as a preservative or stabilizer for active ingredients, but sodium bisulfite can be used as well for manufacturing semi-finished products of metamizole sodium and aminopyrine.

In rubber industry it is used as a coagulataive agent. And the metal industry uses it for finishing the metal products.

When new clothes give you issues then you could blame the sodium bisulfite which is used in the dyes, processing of the wool as well in the antichlor treatments. The antichlors are used mainly on fiber, textiles and paper pulp. But you can find it also in a shampoo what is meant for treating hair after swimming in chlorinated water. These antichlors are used to decompose residual chlorine after bleaching. This will prevent ongoing reactions and rinsing with water should follow after the antichlor treatment, but it is not always done by the manufacturer, and you might find a label in a new clothing: Rinse well with water before using! Now you know why. Other sulfites and sulfates are used as antichlors as well: potassium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, sodium thiosulfates. Also hydrogen peroxide can be used, and that would be probably the safest antichlor for those sensitive to sulfites.

Sodium bisulfite is used as a common reducing agent in the chemical industries: it helps maintain anaerobic conditions within a reactor.

If you are into the photography you should know that sodium bisulfites are used to preserving the thiosulfite in the fixing baths and scavenging the dissolved oxygen in the developer solution.

Bisulfite sequencing uses also bisulfites to treat DNA and to determine its pattern of methylation.

What comes to the symptoms, those varies from person to person but most common ones are again asthma related symptoms from wheezing to difficulties in breathing, rapid heartbeat, hives, swelling of the tongue/face/lips, anxiety, vomiting etc.

Food products with sodium bisulfites:

  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Cider
  • Cod
  • Sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Quick-frozen shrimps, lobsters and other shellfish
  • Quick-frozen pre-processed potato products
  • Dehydrated instant mashed potato
  • Milk/milk products
  • Fruit juices
  • Vegetable juices
  • Different condiments/relish
  • Puddings/Custards
  • Gelatin
  • Baked goods like bread
  • Canned products
  • Soft drinks
  • Sauces
  • Some vegetables like bamboo

Cosmetic uses:

  • In special shampoos

Non food uses of Sodium bisulfite:

  • Leather industry
  • Water treatment/Water pipes
  • Medicine industry
  • Rubber industry
  • Metal industry
  • Textile industry
  • Chemical industry
  • Photography industry
  • In Epigenetics: Bisulfite sequencing
  • Cleaning products (many cleaning products have their trade secrets and they don’t need to label the ingredients used)

Miscellaneous uses:

  • Aquatic plants- pH balancing
  • Commercial poultry industry- for litter treatment
  • Drying of fruits and vegetables for educational purposes, storage





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