Calcium Chloride & Sodium Carbonate

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Chances are you’ve consumed calcium chloride and sodium carbonate, because they’re both food additives. Calcium chloride is also prescribed to treat a calcium deficiency. While they’re safe as additives, both can be poisonous when accidentally inhaled or consumed through nonfood products.

Calcium Chloride

The combination of calcium and chlorine -- calcium chloride -- is a food additive approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. As an anti-caking agent, it prevents powders and granules from sticking together. Calcium chloride is also used to enhance flavor, as a firming agent and for curing or pickling.

In people with severe deficiencies, calcium chloride may be prescribed to boost levels of calcium. Even though it’s not the form of calcium used in over-the-counter supplements, you may find it as an ingredient in electrolyte replacement drinks and concentrated mineral water.

If calcium chloride sounds familiar, you might know it as an ingredient in swimming pool cleaners or as the salt sprinkled on sidewalks to remove snow and ice.

Sodium Carbonate

Sodium carbonate, or soda ash, is made from carbonic acid and sodium. Like calcium chloride, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recognizes sodium carbonate as a safe food additive.

When added to foods, sodium carbonate regulates acidity and serves as an anti-caking agent. Manufacturers also use it as a thickener and to help foods rise during baking. You’ll find it in a variety of products, including prepared fish, pasta, condiments, fermented milk and vegetables, salt substitutes, and whipping cream.

Sodium carbonate is well-known as a water softener. It’s also used to manufacture glass, paper, soaps, bubble bath and detergents, reports Frostburg State University.

Similar-Sounding Substances

Sodium carbonate may be used to produce sodium bicarbonate, but don’t confuse the two -- sodium bicarbonate is baking soda. You may see sodium carbonate in the list of ingredients in dietary supplements, but only as an additive, not for nutritional benefits.

Sodium carbonate and calcium chloride are easy to mistake for sodium chloride and calcium carbonate. Sodium chloride is common table salt, while calcium carbonate is a form of calcium often found in supplements. Calcium chloride is usually reserved for emergency use in health care facilities.

Health Warnings

When these ingredients are added to foods, manufacturers use small amounts and follow what’s called good manufacturing practices to ensure safety. For example, calcium chloride can’t represent more than 0.3 percent of the total ingredients for baked goods, reports the FDA.

In larger quantities, sodium carbonate and calcium chloride are hazardous. Both irritate skin and eyes, and they're harmful if inhaled. Sodium carbonate and calcium chloride are poisons if they're accidentally consumed via household products.