Is a Common Food Preservative Also Used in Fireworks and Rocket Fuel?
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Is a Common Food Preservative Also Used in Fireworks and Rocket Fuel?

Sodium Benzoate, also known as Benzoic Acid, is a very common and widely used preservative in popular foods for both humans and pets, and is also found in many over the counter medications such as cold and flu medications, cosmetics and even baby wipes. Sodium Benzoate is commonly used in foods that are highly acidic such as vinegar style salad dressings, carbonated soft drinks which contain citric acids, jams, pickles and other condiments like relish. Sodium Benzoate is also a common ingredient in popular fireworks and rocket fuel.

Sodium Benzoate, also known as Benzoic Acid, is a very common and widely used preservative in popular foods for both humans and pets, and is also found in many over the counter medications such as cold and flu medications, cosmetics and even baby wipes. Sodium Benzoate is the sodium salt of Benzoic Acid which is produced when placed in water. Combining Sodium Hydroxide with Benzoic Acid also creates Sodium Benzoate. Its chemical formula is NaC6H5CO2. Sodium Benzoate is a metabolically active compound that can serve as an alternative to urea for the excretion of waste nitrogen. It is also listed an an ingredient that is known to kill of bacteria, yeast and fungi.

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Sodium Benzoate is under acidic conditions so it is commonly used in foods that are highly acidic such as vinegar style salad dressings, carbonated soft drinks which contain citric acids, jams, pickles and other condiments like relish. Naturally, it is found in low quantities in foods such as cranberries, plums, apples and even cinnamon, and it is often used to stop the fermentation process in wine. Benzoic Acid does not dissolve in water which is why Sodium Benzoate is used especially in food and medicines. It is used specifically in highly acidic foods in which the Ph can remain in balance.

Although the FDA limits the concentration of Sodium Benzoate to 0.1% by wieght which is how they determine what is safe to ingest, it is questionable as to how these statistics are determined. The International Programme on Chemical Safety determines there are no harmful side effects for humans who ingest this chemical in doses of 647–825 mg/kg of body weight per day. Concerns have arrised however. When Sodium Benzoate is combined with Vitamin C which is commonly labeled as Ascorbic Acid, it produces Benzene which is known and proven to be carcinogenic ( cancer causing ). On it's own, Sodium Benzoate is known to not be carcinogenic unless it is ingested at very high quantities and even then it is questionable. Soft drinks are one of the largest culprits that contain the carcinogenic combination of Vitamin C and Sodium Benzoate and questions have been posed to the FDA for further testing on the safety and side effects of the resulted chemical, Benzene. It has been noted that heat, light and shelf life are also a factor in the quantity and toxicity of Benzene that is produced. Until further testing can be done, it is suggested to limit the consumption of soft drinks until accurate safety measures are known.

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Benzene damages inactive vital parts of DNA which are known as the Mitochondria. Mitochondria convert oxygen into fuel in the cellular level of tissue. If the Mitochondria are damaged, proper oxygen conversion is thwarted. The cells then enter a stage known as  Apoptosis which is the process known as Programmed Cell Death ( PCD ). These changes can cause nuclear fragmentation, cellular shrinkage, chromatin condensation and chromosomal DNA fragmentation. This is naturally occurring within the body but at excessive levels, Apoptosis can manifest into total degeneration of cell tissue and form cancerous growth.

Sodium Benzoate is also a common ingredient in popular fireworks and rocket fuel. It burns hot, fast and gives a lot of thrust and smoke, although, it is known to be less stable due to its explosive tendencies when compressed due to the fuels sensitivity to impact.

Sodium Benzoate is also sold as a loose powder for those who choose to build and construct their own fireworks. The American Pyrotechnic Association offers the latest regulations and restrictions per state on the usage of fireworks and this compound for its explosiveness. It is noted however, that most legal fireworks do not contain the more volatile Sodium Benzoate and proper precautions should be taken for those who choose to use it for its explosive properties.

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Comments (8)

It is really scary to know that Sodium Benzoate which we use in preservation of foods is also used in fireworks. thank you Debby. I am out of votes. Enjoyed this article and promoted.

Ranked #4 in Chemistry

Hi Paulose. You bet, it sure is. The more I research the more stunned I am with all of the chemical combinations that cause adverse affects and what is even more startling, is how science first thought these were perfect candidates for food or medicine preservation to begin with. Thank you for sharing this article, I appreciate it and your feedback.

What scares me the most is that the FDA is aware that these chemicals food additives, and numerous others, cause cancer and yet they mealy restrict their use. They should be banned, period!

Ranked #4 in Chemistry

Absolutely! What comes to mind for me is, what if we take Vitamin C as part of our nutritional regimen and then drink a soda right after. Does that chemical react with the vitamin and still cause Benzene as the result a chemical interaction in our bodies and digestive system? I thought it was just the sweeteners we had to worry about. It's like nothing is safe anymore. What else is nuts about it like you said is the FDA. If I had liberty and leverage to do it, I would completely disband the entire organization and restructure it. So what if all these food and beverage companies go out of business. Look at all the adverse health issues we face while living in a country that doesn't even give us coverage to cure it.

Great awareness for everyone! Very well said Debbie.

Ranked #4 in Chemistry

Thank you Ron :)

Good report. Thank you Debbie. Ever grateful for your friendship and support.

This reads a lot like the wiki on sodium benzoate, and some confusion seems to have crept in somewhere, particularly on the stability of benzoates.  I do not question the issues regarding benzoates in food, and we need continued investigation.  However, benzoic acid and sodium benzoate are not impact sensitive.  For pyrotechnics (and acne medication), benzoyl peroxide is used, and it can explode with shock.  Sodium perbenzoate is also similarly unstable.  Actual benzoates could be useful in pyrotechnics as a fuel, and they could be useful for whistlers as a slow burner.

Also, mixing benzoic acid with Vitamin C does not make benzene; it just makes a blend of the two compounds.  I wish this were true, because a reaction to easily decarboxylate organic acids would be very, very noteworthy.  For the synthetic use alone, it might even be worth a Nobel Prize in chemistry.  Sadly, though, the reaction just doesn't occur.

Please continue with the debate; we need to be careful of what goes into our bodies.  However, so much information is floating out there that confusion on some facts can creep in.  Keep up with the reporting!

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