Monday, June 30, 2008

What Is Baking Soda Exactly? Is it Eco?

We scrub our tub, bake a cake, brush our teeth and make our toilets gleem ... we even can wash out greasey grime from hard to manage hair with it. When reading an article on Eco-Chick today about mixing it with a little shampoo for extra cleaning power, and a few weeks ago on Tiny Choices for making DIY toothpaste - I suddenly realized I had no idea what Baking Soda actually is!
If you are cluless too of the actual chemistry, here is some confusing clarification:

" It is a component of the mineral natron and is found dissolved in many mineral springs. Sodium bicarbonate is an amphoteric compound.
Commercial quantities of baking soda are produced by: soda ash, mined in the form of the ore trona, is dissolved in water and treated with carbon dioxide. Sodium bicarbonate precipitates as a solid from this method:
Na2CO3 + CO2 + H2O → 2NaHCO3
Say Wha? Ok, so they mine the trona to make the baking soda with because the other popular method of obtaining baking soda called the Solvay process apparently causes pollution probs-> "In inland plants, such as that in Solvay, New York, the byproducts have been deposited in "waste beds" the weight of material deposited in these waste beds exceeded that of the soda ash produced by about 50%. These waste beds have led to water pollution, principally by calcium and chlorine ions. The waste beds in Solvay, New York substantially increased the salinity in nearby Onondaga Lake, which is among the most polluted lakes in the U.S. and is a superfund pollution site."
Darn it! And the trona dates back 50 million years in some areas, which makes me think of oil and how we have all but raped the earth of it without a thought to how eliminating any substance completely could change the ecology of the planet (even beyond the fumes of pollution).
Does this mean Baking Soda is not very eco? Egyptians used it in it's natural mineral form as a type of soap, but the stuff we are buying is commercially & chemically produced using massive industrial efforts, and may be causing more mess to clean up. A mess that actually can't be cleaned with baking soda.

What do you think about how baking soda is made, do you think it is still the eco- friendly & natural go to product?

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