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Sodium carbonate poisoning


Sodium carbonate (known as washing soda or soda ash) is a chemical found in many household and industrial products. This article focuses on poisoning due to sodium carbonate.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or a local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Alternative Names

Sal soda poisoning; Soda ash poisoning; Disodium salt poisoning; Carbonic acid poisoning; Washing soda poisoning

Poisonous Ingredient

Sodium carbonate

Where Found

Sodium carbonate is found in:

  • Automatic dishwashing soaps
  • Clinitest (diabetes testing) tablets
  • Glass products
  • Pulp and paper products
  • Some bleaches
  • Some bubble bath solutions
  • Some steam iron cleaners

Note: This list is not all-inclusive.


Symptoms may include:

  • Breathing problems due to throat swelling
  • Collapse
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Eye irritation, redness, and pain
  • Hoarseness
  • Low blood pressure (may develop rapidly)
  • Severe pain in the mouth, throat, chest, or abdominal area
  • Shock
  • Skin irritation
  • Swallowing difficulty
  • Vomiting

Home Treatment

Seek immediate medical help. DO NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.

If the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.

If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person one glass of water or milk, unless instructed otherwise by a provider. DO NOT give water or milk if the person is having symptoms (vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.

If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air.

Before Calling Emergency

If readily available, determine the following information:

  • The person's age, weight, and condition
  • The name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)
  • The time it was swallowed
  • The amount swallowed

Poison Control

In the United States, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a local poison control center. This hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.

What to expect at the emergency room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including:

  • Temperature
  • Pulse
  • Breathing rate
  • Blood pressure

Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The person may receive:

  • Blood Tests
  • EKG (electrocardiogram or heart tracing)
  • Endoscopy, a camera is moved down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
  • Eye irrigation
  • Fluids (intravenous or through the vein)
  • Medicines to treat symptoms
  • Oxygen
  • X-rays of chest and abdomen

Outlook (Prognosis)

Sodium carbonate is usually not very toxic. However, if you swallow very large amounts, you may have symptoms. In this rare situation, long-term effects, even death, are possible if you do not receive quick and aggressive treatment.


Sioris, LJ, Schuller, HK. Soaps, Detergents, and Bleaches. In: Shannon, MW, ed. Shannon: Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2007:chap 102.

Review Date: 10/18/2014
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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