Calcium Carbide is a chemical made of carbon and calcium, it's a grayish-black sand-like (crystalline) substance but white when pure. The chemical formula of Calcium Carbide is (Ca(C2)). It has a garlic-like odor.

Calcium Carbide is often used as a reducing agent, in generating acetylene gas, and to manufacture steel. In ancient times, calcium Carbide was used as a source of acetylene flame in carbide lamps. Presently, these lamps are used in powering beacons and lighthouses, and for cave exploration.

Calcium Carbide can also be used in developing chemical technologies, most eminent synthetic rubber. Calcium carbide can also be used in making acetylene black, vinyl chloride, acetic acid, acrylonitrile, ethylene, acetone, synthetic raisins, and styrene. Calcium carbide is also used in metallurgy, reducing the sulfur and oxygen content(desulfuration) and deoxidizing metals. The production of Calcium carbide is now at an all-time high worldwide.

With all of these usefulness of Calcium Carbide, It also poses some dangers to human health when not handled properly. Here are some of the hazards of the chemical.

Is Calcium Carbide Flammable

Calcium Carbide is a flammable chemical. It is prone to cause explosions and fire hazards when exposed. If exposed to moisture or water it produces acetylene gas which is also flammable and can be ignited.

Calcium Carbide Effect On Eyes And Skin

Calcium Carbide is a chemical that if it comes in contact with your eyes can skin cause severe damage. If calcium carbide comes in contact with your eyes, it can cause severe irritation and burns with likely permanent damage.

Calcium carbide also causes skin irritation, skin rashes, burning on contact, and redness.

Calcium Carbide Effect On Health

Exposure to Calcium Carbide is likely to have some effects on health. The short-term health issues that might arise might include irritation of the lungs causing shortness of breath and/or coughing.  When highly exposed there's a possibility of fluid build-up in the lungs causing severe shortness of breath. Exposure can also lead to irritation of the nose, mouth, and throat.

The only confirmed long-term effect of Calcium Carbide is bronchitis which causes shortness of breath, phlegm, and coughing. Calcium Carbide hasn't been confirmed for its ability to cause any cancer or reproductive hazard.

How Does The Chemical React With Water

When Calcium Carbide reacts with water, acetylene is released.

2H₂O + CaC₂ → C₂H₂↑ + Ca(OH)₂

Acetylene is an industrial chemical that has a unpleasant smell, caused by the impurities in it such as NH₃, H₂S, PH₃, and oth­ers. When acetylene is in its pure form it's a colorless gas and is characterized by a faint smell, and dissolves in water.

To demonstrate how calcium carbide reacts with water, a simple experiment can be carried out;

  • Pour water into a bottle that can contain 1.5L
  • Add calcium carbide into the bottle and close it with the use of a stopper. The ensuing reaction between the water and calcium carbide causes acetylene to collect in the bottle as there's a build of pressure.
  • As soon as this reaction stops, place a piece of paper that's burning into the bottle, which would stir up an explosion followed by a fiery cloud.

This experiment is dangerous because there's a possibility of the bottle bursting as a result of the chemical reaction and the experiment should be carried out while observing safety precautions.

The reaction of Calcium Carbide with water can also be demonstrated with a modified form using a 6L bottle. The materials needed must be weighed properly, because the greater the bottle radius, the lesser the pressure the container can withstand.

To prevent explosion, the Calcium Carbide to be used must be properly measured. Calcium Carbide's molar mass is about 64g/mol. 64g of carbide is expected to yield about 22.4 L of acetylene.

The bottle should be able to withstand 5 atmospheres; to carry out this experiment, use about 0.5.L of water and 64g of calcium carbide. Place the calcium carbide in a small bag. Push the small bag into the bottle, then close the bottle with the use of a stopper quickly. The reaction of water and Calcium Carbide goes on for some minutes, the bottle swells, and the process is followed by loud bangs, but the bottle should be able to withstand it.

After acetylene has been released completely, place a hot rag already soaked in hexdecane on the stopper, then move to a safe distance. You'll see a bright yellowish flash, and a flame fountain of about 4 meters high would rise from the bottle. This will warp the bottle and burn the stopper, but the bottle should be intact. The experiment must be carried out in open air, far from any explosive and flammable objects. Ensure safety precautions are observed.

Safety Tips Whilst Handling The Chemical

Calcium Carbide is a toxic chemical and should be handled with care whilst handling. You should always wear protective clothing at all times. Avoid direct skin contact with the chemical. Wear protective clothing that can't be degraded or permeated by Calcium Carbide.

Protective clothing such as headgear, footwear, gloves, and suits should be cleaned every time. Ensure you wear eye protection also with goggles or side shields. Respirators should remain on at all times because inhaling the chemical can be disastrous.