Sulfurous Acid is defined as a chemical compound having the chemical formula as H2SO3. H2SO3 is chemically known as Sulfurous Acid.
Sulfurous acid is also referred to as Sulfur dioxide solution or trioxosulfuric acid or di-hydrogen trioxosulfate. It is an intermediate species that forms acid rain from sulfur dioxide (which is SO2).
Trioxosulfuric acid is described as a liquid without having colour, and it has a pungent burning sulfur smell and is corrosive to metals and tissue. It is a sulfur oxoacid, the conjugate acid of a hydrogen sulfite, and tautomer of sulfonic acid.
Let us look at the structure of sulphurous acid represented as follows.
[Image will be uploaded soon]
Properties of Sulfurous Acid – H2SO3
Let us look at the important properties of sulfurous acid as given below:
Sulfurous acid - A Reducing Agent or Oxidizing Agent
Sulfurous acid (which is also called sulphurous acid) is the chemical compound having the formula H2SO3. There is no evidence that sulfurous acid exists in the solution, but this molecule has been detected in the gaseous phase.
However, the conjugate bases of this elusive acid are common bisulfite (or hydrogen sulfite), anions, and sulfite. Whereas, weak and unstable acid, is formed when sulfur dioxide dissolves in water. The fact that sulfur dioxide compound actually exists in the solution cannot be explained exactly, but the molecules of this substance have been detected in the gaseous phase.
It is a reducing, and a bleaching agent too.
The sulfurous acid compound only forms in the aqueous solution, and it is thus not isolated in its pure state.
Reasons Behind Some of the Acids being Oxidizing and Some Non-oxidizing
All the Bronsted Lowry acids (which are proton donors) are said to be oxidizing agents because H+ is reduced to hydrogen gas H2.
However, acids that form an anionic form of oxygen, such as sulphuric H2SO4, nitric HNO3, chromic H2CrO4 (or H2Cr2O7), chloric HClO3, and perchloric HClO4 tend to be strong oxidizing acids.
Moreover, phosphoric acid due to its high affinity for the oxygen compound is a poor oxidizing acid.
The oxidizing acids which are mentioned above can react with the less reactive metals like copper, where the H+ cation is not reduced to hydrogen gas.
For example, the reaction of dilute nitric acid with copper metal and its reaction is given below:
3 Cu + 8 HNO3+ → 3 Cu2+ + 2 NO + 4H2O + 6 NO3−
Reactions of Sulfurous Acid
According to SO2 Raman spectra solution, it represents that the signal intensities are consistent with the equilibrium given as below:
SO2 + H2O ⇌ HSO−3 + H+
where , pKa = 1.81 and Ka = 1.54 × 10−2.
H2SO3 Uses (Sulfurous Acid)
This compound is used as a reducing agent.
Sulfurous acid can be used as an intermediate in industries.
It is used in paper products manufacturing.
It is also used as a disinfectant.
Sulfurous acid is a corrosive, non-combustible, and toxic compound. Ingesting or inhaling or skin contact with the compound solution causes a severe injury leading to death. Sulfurous acid, in its molten form, can cause severe burns to skin and eyes. Thus, it is advised to avoid skin contact with this compound. It also liberates toxic, irritating, and corrosive gases.
Let us look at more information about various types of health effects when exposed to sulfurous acid.
Chronic Health Effects
The following chronic (which are long-term) health effects can take place at some time after the exposure to Sulfurous Acid and may last for months or even years:
Cancer Hazard - As per the presently available information to the New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services, sulfurous acid has not been tested on its ability to cause cancer in animals.
Reproductive Hazard - Sulfurous acid compound has not been tested on its ability to affect reproduction.
Other Long-Term Effects - Sulfurous acid can also irritate the lungs. Repeated exposure can cause bronchitis to develop with phlegm, cough, and/or shortness of breath.
If there is suspicion of overexposure symptoms, it is recommended to consider a chest x-ray after acute overexposure.
Any evaluation should include a careful history of previous and current symptoms with the examination. Medical tests which look for any damage already done are not a substitute to control the exposure.
Solubility of Sulphurous Acid
Sulfurous acid is a colourless gas having a high solubility in water. It hydrates to sulphuric acid (H2SO3) in its solution, which in turn dissociates to produce form ions of bisulfite (and sulfite (SO2–3).