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Properties of Copper Sulfate

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Copper sulfate is an odorless blue powder or transparent blue crystal. It is most commonly used for agricultural purposes as a fungicide to treat fruit and vegetable crops for mildew, blights and other fungus. Copper sulfate is also used in water treatment plants as an algaecide and has applications as an herbicide and a snail and slug repellent.

Physical Properties

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Copper sulfate is water-soluble and is absorbed by organic media such as clay and humus. Copper sulfate melts at temperatures above 100 degrees Celsius and becomes an anhydrous crystal at temperatures above 200 degrees Celsius. It is not flammable or combustible.

As copper sulfate is a naturally occurring compound, it does not degrade under normal environmental conditions and does not reduce its presence in bodies of water by volatilization. It is strongly reactive with other metals such as steel, iron and magnesium.

Health Effects

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Copper sulfate is harmful if ingested or if skin is exposed to it. It will also cause irreversible eye damage. Copper sulfate exposure causes irritation in mucous membranes and in the digestive and upper respiratory tracts. Chronic exposure to the compound by agricultural workers has shown an increase in liver disease. Animals with increased exposure have developed stunted growth, anorexia and anemia, followed by death. Acute human exposure has been linked vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and, in some cases, suicide. Copper sulfate is not a known carcinogen.

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Environmental Effects

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Copper sulfate is extremely toxic to marine life and it is considered a regulated pollutant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In large concentrations, copper sulfate is capable of killing all vegetation in a body of water, thereby causing a depletion of oxygen by the rotting vegetation, which in turn will kill fish populations.

Copper sulfate is not as hazardous to bird species as it is to other animal species.

About the Author

Kevin Owen has been a professional writer since 2005. He served as an editor for the American Bar Association's "Administrative Law Review." Owen is an employment litigator in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and practices before various state and federal trial and appellate courts. He earned his Juris Doctor from American University.

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