When you think of sulfur, most likely the first thing that comes to mind is an odor like rotten eggs. However, what you may not realize is that sulfur powder goes into many products used in the areas of medicine, agriculture and manufacturing. Sulfur, sometimes referred to as brimstone, is a yellow chemical element that gives off a strong, unpleasant odor.
Sulfur has been used since ancient times to treat certain medical conditions. It is used for its cleansing properties in the treatment of infections. Other medical uses include the elimination of parasites like ticks and fleas, the treatment of certain skin problems such as scabies and dermatitis, and the treatment of bacterial infections. Sulfur drugs are available as lotions, ointments, creams and soap. Oral medications, called sulfonamides, are administered in tablet or syrup form.
Sulfur is necessary for the growth and development of plant life. The majority of all sulfur in the U.S. is used to make sulfuric acid, and about three quarters of it is used in fertilizers, according to Chemistry Explained. Plants are dusted with sulfur powder as an insecticide. Agricultural sulfur is produced in the form of flowable sulfur for use on vine crops. Wettable powders are applied by dusting or spraying plants. Dusting sulfur is also a fungicide.
Sulfur powder is used in industry for the manufacture of numerous products. For example, it is used to make tires. Sulfur is added during manufacturing to make the rubber hard and to prevent it from melting during warmer temperatures. Other rubber products include latex gloves, pencil erasers and automobile bumpers. Sulfur powder is used in the process of manufacturing other common items such as matches, adhesives, synthetic fibers, paper products, plastics, water treatment chemicals and storage batteries.
Sulfur powder has an ignition temperature of approximately 190 degrees Celsius and there is a potential for explosion when there is a dust cloud from handing sulfur. In addition, static from the particles can result in ignition. It should be stored in well ventilated areas to reduce the risk of fire or explosion. Although ground sulfur is nontoxic when inhaled or ingested, it can cause irritation to your eyes, skin and lungs. For your safety, wear personal protective equipment, such as goggles and breathing apparatus, when working with sulfur powder.