Potassium Permanganate: Antiseptic, Water Purifier, Fire Starter and more . . .
Water treatment and disinfection:
As an oxidant, potassium permanganate can act as an antiseptic. For example, dilute solutions are used to treat canker sores (ulcers), disinfectant for the hands and treatment for mild pompholyx, dermatitis and fungal infections of the hands or feet. It is used extensively in the water treatment industry as a regeneration chemical to remove iron and hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg smell) from well water via a "Manganese Greensand" Filter. "Pot-Perm" is also obtainable at pool supply stores, is used additionally to treat waste water. Historically it has been used to disinfect/sterilize drinking water.
Ethylene absorbents extend storage time of bananas even at high temperatures. This effect can be exploited by packing bananas in polyethylene together with potassium permanganate. By removing ethylene by oxidation, the permanganate delays the ripening., increasing the fruit's shelf life up to 4 weeks without the need for refrigeration.
Potassium permanganate is typically included in survival kits as a fire starter (mixed with antifreeze from a car radiator or glycerin), and for creating distress signals on snow.
Potassium permanganate is used in the "plastic sphere dispensers" used to set backfires, burnouts, and prescribed fires. Polymer spheres resembling ping-pong balls containing small amounts of permanganate are injected with ethylene glycol and projected towards the area where ignition is desired, where they spontaneously ignite seconds later. Both handheld and helicopter- or boat-mounted plastic sphere dispensers are used.
Safety and handling:
As an oxidizer that generates the dark brown product MnO2, potassium permanganate rapidly stains virtually any organic material such as skin, paper, and clothing. Solid KMnO4 is a strong oxidizer, thus should be kept separated from oxidizable substances. Reaction with concentrated sulfuric acid produces the highly explosive manganese(VII) oxide (Mn2O7). When solid KMnO4 mixed with pure glycerol or other simple alcohols will result in a violent combustion reaction.
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