What’s Strontium Chloride?

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Strontium chloride is a stable metal salt with limited uses, including toothpaste for sensitive teeth and as an additive in cosmetics. It has a higher toxicity than calcium chloride and can decompose in the presence of water. Strontium 89 chloride is used as a pain reliever for cancer patients, while strontium ranelate is being studied for its effect on bone growth. It is also used in industry as a chemical precursor and corrosion inhibitor, and in fireworks due to its bright red color.

Strontium chloride is a metal salt composed of the elements strontium and chloride in the chemical formula SrCl2, and has a variety of limited and specific uses. In the past, it was the most common ingredient in some toothpastes where it is often in the chemical form of strontium chloride hexahydrate, or SrCl2 6H2O. These toothpastes are marketed for people with sensitive teeth, where they serve to block nerve transmission signals in the layer of dentin under the tooth enamel. Potassium nitrate has replaced strontium chloride in toothpaste in some formulations, however, due to health concerns. As an additive in cosmetics, it is also found in some skin conditioning and soothing agents.

Strontium salts are considered to be quite stable chemicals that have a slightly higher level of toxicity than calcium chloride. Strontium chloride has a high boiling point of 2,282° Fahrenheit (1,250° Celsius) and is soluble in water. The preparation and storage of the compound is as a white crystalline powder and one of its risks is that it decomposes in the presence of water, which can result in the production of hydrochloric acid and caustic hydrochloric acid vapor.

A radioactive version of the compound, strontium 89 chloride, is injected intravenously into cancer patients suffering from bone or prostate cancer as a form of pain reliever. Since strontium 89chloride has a half-life of 50.5 days, after which half of it decays to 89yttrium, injections into the body suppress pain for about three months before needing to be repeated. The compound is believed to relieve pain by interfering with the growth of cancer or the metastasis of tumors in bone tissue. A related form of the compound called strontium ranelate is being studied for its effect on human bone in patients with osteoporosis, where it may also stimulate new bone growth, as well as the growth of collagen and cartilage that support joint function.

In industry, strontium chloride is used as a chemical precursor to produce other types of strontium compounds used as brazing fluxes and phosphor coatings. It is also used as a corrosion inhibitor in aluminum alloys such as strontium chromate compound, and because it burns a bright red color, strontium and fireworks go hand in hand. The same compound used in toothpaste, strontium chloride hexahydrate, is also used in the manufacture of magnetic materials. Both the metallurgy and glass-making processes, as well as the natural life cycles of oceanic plankton, all require the use of small amounts of the chemical.

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