Sodium Nitrate

What is Sodium Nitrate?

Sodium nitrate, also known as Chile saltpeter (chemical formula: NaNO3), is an odourless and colourless (or white) powder. It is soluble in water, but only slightly soluble in alcohol. Sodium nitrate is extremely bitter or salty in taste. 

What is Sodium Nitrate used for?

Sodium nitrate is used in the production of fertilisers, explosives, potassium nitrate, solid propellants, glass and medications.  

Most of the world’s sodium nitrate goes towards producing fertiliser as sodium nitrate contains nitrogen—which is essential for plants to thrive, without altering the pH levels of the soil.

Sodium nitrate is also commonly added to food to preserve meat products in countries such as the US, Australia, New Zealand and the EU. It prevents bacteria from growing, as well as ensuring the meat keeps that fresh red meat colour.

Sodium nitrate preserves processed meats such as salami, ham, hot dogs and other deli meats to prevent quick spoiling.
Sodium nitrate preserves processed meats such as salami, ham, hot dogs and other deli meats to prevent quick spoiling.

Sodium Nitrate Hazards

The routes of exposure for sodium nitrate include inhalation, ingestion and skin and eye contact. 

Inhalation of sodium nitrate may cause respiratory irritation, with vapours possibly causing drowsiness, dizziness, sleepiness, reduced alertness, lack of coordination ,vertigo and loss of reflexes. Individuals with existing respiratory diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis as well as circulatory/nervous system or kidney damage, may incur further disablement if excessive concentrations are inhaled. 

Ingestion of sodium nitrate may be harmful, with animal experiments indicating a dose of less than 150 grams to cause death or cause serious damage in humans. Symptoms may include abdominal and muscle spasms, faintness, bluish skin, vomiting, diarrhoea and anaemia. 

Skin exposure to sodium nitrate can cause inflammation as well as worsen existing conditions such as dermatitis. Entry into the bloodstream through open wounds and cuts may cause systemic injury to the individual’s health.  

Eye exposure may cause eye irritation and damage in some individuals. 

Sodium Nitrate Safety

If inhaled, remove the patient from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source. Lay the patient down and ensure they are kept warm and rested. If the patient is not breathing and you are qualified to do so, perform CPR (preferably with a bag-valve mask device). Seek medical attention immediately. 

If swallowed, urgent hospital treatment is likely to be needed. In the meantime, qualified personnel should observe and treat the patient. If medical attention is more than 15 minutes away, induce vomiting with fingers to the back of the throat, ensuring the patient is leaned forward or placed on their left side to avoid aspiration. 

If skin exposure occurs, remove all contaminated clothing and footwear and immediately flush the affected area with plenty of soap and running water. Seek medical attention in the event of irritation. 

If the chemical is exposed to the eyes, flush the eyes out with water, remembering to wash under the eyelids. Contact lenses should only be removed by a skilled professional. Seek medical attention without delay.

Sodium Nitrate Safety Handling

Emergency eyewash fountains and safety showers should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical and there should always be adequate ventilation to remove or dilute any air contaminants to prevent overexposure (install local exhaust if necessary). 

The PPE recommended when handling sodium nitrate includes chemical goggles, filter dust respirators, PVC/rubber gloves, PVC aprons/protective suits and safety footwear/gumboots. 

Sodium nitrate can be extremely hazardous when mishandled—refer to your SDS to ensure this never happens. Click here for a trial of our SDS Management Software or contact us at for more information about our chemicals management solutions.