EDTA appears as a colourless crystalline solid that is slightly soluble in water. It can also be found as white, crystalline granules. It is mostly used as an anticoagulant for blood specimens and is applied in the treatment of lead poisoning. The compound is also known as edetic acid, ethlenediaminetetraacetic acid, edathamil, endrate, tetrine acid, and titriplex just to mention a few.
According to the Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB), the compound has a melting point of approximately 245 degrees Celsius and a flashpoint which is greater than 100 degrees Celsius. It is soluble in solutions of alkali hydroxides and is insoluble in common organic solvents.
According to hazardous substances data bank, the compound is stable as a solid and in aqueous solutions. Only strong oxidizing agents can attack it chemically. It is however less stable than its salts and is more stable when stored and boiled in an aqueous solution. The compound tends to decarboxylating when heated to approximately 150 degrees Celsius.
Some of the areas of application of EDTA include:
- It is used to treat alkali, especially lime, burns of the cornea.
- It has been used as a radiotracer for the assessment of glomerular filtration rates since 1906.
- It has been used in chelation therapy to treat atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease since 1955 although its success has been disputed in recent years.
- It is used as an antioxidant in foods.
- It is used as a bleaching agent in colour film processing.
- It is used as an etching agent in metal finishing and semiconductor production.
- It is used as a chelating agent in wood pulping processes.
- It is used in gas scrubbing.
- It is used as a component in blood anticoagulants.
- It is used as a chelating agent in boilers and cooling water.
- It is used as a chelating agent in electroless nickel plating.
- It is used in metal cleaning and plating.
- It is used as a metal chelating agent.
- It is used in the decontamination of radioactive surfaces.
- It is used as metal deactivator in vegetable oil.
- It is used in textiles to improve dyeing, scouring, and detergent operations.
- It is used in the spectrophotometric titration.
- It is used as a chelating agent in cosmetic formulations.
- It is used to control the corrosion of canned carbonated beverages.
- It is used to suppress off-flavour in whole milk.
- It is used to enhance the foaming properties of reconstituted skim milk.
- It is used to slow down nitric oxide-haemoglobin formation in cured meats.
- It is used to prevent the discolouration of antibiotics, local anaesthetics, and antihistamines as a result of trace metals.
- It is used in the pretreatment of human teeth to help decrease the dissolution of the enamel.
- It is used in the treatment of lead and heavy metal poisoning of farm animals.
N.B: Chelation means to bind or to grab. When injected into the veins, EDTA grabs heavy metals and minerals such as lead and excretes them from the body.