What is KCl?


Quick Answer

KCl is potassium chloride, a water-soluble metallic salt with important medical uses. Potash, an important material in the production of fertilizer, contains high amounts of KCl.

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Full Answer

KCl comprises the elements potassium and chlorine. Potash and sylvite are naturally KCL-containing ores and salt water also yields KCl with proper processing. Potassium chloride enjoys a wide variety of uses. Medically, small doses of KCl are helpful for individuals with low levels of blood potassium. Potassium is important for heart and kidney health, and it allows nerves and muscles to function properly. Because of its effects on heart muscle, surgeons use KCl during heart surgeries that require a non-beating heart; the surgeon bypasses the patient's heart with a heart-lung machine and uses a higher dose of KCl to temporarily stop the heart. Because overdoses of potassium chloride can cause cardiac arrest, KCl is sometimes the final chemical in the series of three that comprise lethal injection.

Potassium chloride, often as a component of potash, is an important component of fertilizers. Potassium helps plants to absorb nutrients more effectively, grow larger, and resist diseases and pests. It also improves the taste, yield and nutrient content of many food crops.

Potassium chloride is also useful in fire extinguishers, even though potassium bicarbonate largely replaces it today. KCl is effective in combating both flammable liquid and gas fires, as well as electrical fires.

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