What Are the Dangers of Potassium Chlorate?

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Matchsticks, fireworks and explosives may all contain potassium chlorate. This white, powdery substance may look innocuous, but it packs a powerful punch. When left alone it may be less harmful, but when given the chance to react to organic matter, such as sugar or your skin, serious damage can result. Potassium chlorate should be stored and handled by certified professionals. If you come in contact with potassium chlorate, seek medical help immediately.


Potassium chlorate alone is toxic to the skin, eyes, and internal organs, states inchem.org. If you come in contact with this chemical, rinse affected areas and seek medical help immediately. In cases of ingestion, the website recommends rinsing out the mouth and inducing vomiting if the person is conscious. Medical help will be needed in this case as well. Potassium chlorate also has the potential to produce toxic fumes if it is used in a fire.

The Material Safety Data Sheet, MSDS, for potassium chlorate states that it is "toxic to blood, kidneys, lungs, the nervous system, liver and mucous membranes." Repeated or prolonged exposure can cause serious damage to the affected areas.


Although not combustable alone, potassium chlorate can enhance the combustion of other substances, states inchem.org. As mentioned earlier, if this chemical is involved in a fire, toxic fumes will result. Proper ventilation is needed when using this substance, and it must be kept away from heat or flame. The website also states that sawdust or other substances should not be used to put out the fire, as these can cause further ignition. Water is needed, and should be sprayed liberally over the flames.


Although not itself flammable, when mixed with other substances it can cause an explosion, oftentimes resulting in flames. It is often used in making matches, fireworks, and other explosives. According to Angelo.edu, potassium chlorate is an oxidizing agent; when mixed with an organic compound, like simple sugar, and sulfuric acid, an explosion results. For this reason, potassium chlorate must be stored alone, and care must be taken when removing it from a bottle. If you scrape the bottle, you may cause the bottle to ignite.

Potassium chlorate's explosive nature is sometimes shown in chemistry laboratory demonstrations. Only experts and licensed professionals should perform these demonstrations. In these cases, proper ventilation is always needed, and participants must be protected from the explosion and resulting flames.


Inchem.org also mentions that potassium chlorate can be corrosive to metals when in the presence of water. Do not store this compound in metal, and care should be used when washing the substance from a metal surface.