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topic 12778

Danger of copper sulphate

A discussion started in 2002 but continuing through 2018


Q. If you get copper sulfate [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] on your hands, what damage can it do?

Jenny Smith
- Dublin, Ireland


A. Search for "MSDS Copper Sulphate" on the web and see if you can download a "Material Safety Data Sheet" for copper sulphate, Jenny. Good luck.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. I wouldn't recommend bathing in it or eating it but if you are careful, it is not unduly harmful. Copper can be harmful in large doses, but in small doses, say from a copper bangle, it is supposed to help relieve rheumatism. Copper is also an essential trace element, so without it you may die! I was once told that fish and frog blood is based on copper, unlike human blood which is based on iron, but I have no proof for that - you may like to find out for yourself! If it is true, copper clearly doesn't do them any harm!

The important thing with almost all metals is their ability to be "bio-available" - that is, it must be in a form that can be reacted with the biological system. Pure copper will slowly dissolve in the natural skin secretions such as sweat, but copper sulphate is already in a water soluble form, so it will be absorbed through the skin that much faster. I would simply recommend that you treat copper sulphate as you would all chemicals, with respect.

After handling ANY CHEMICAL you should really wash your hands with soapy water. NEVER eat or drink whilst handling chemicals, or you will be courting trouble.

Finally, NEVER smoke when handling chemicals because you may inhale them; if they are flammable, you may ignite them and go up like a roman candle!

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK


A. Hi Jenny,

Copper sulfate is acidic in nature. When bonding with the moisture on your hands, the crystals may liberate a tiny bit more acidity, but I believe that some corrosivity is the extent of it's danger to tissue. Copper sulfate is usually used in a sulfuric acid media, so, obviously you will encounter more corrosivity should that be the case. A few minutes of washing your hands with tap water should dismiss any concern. I am not a toxicologist, but I have had copper sulfate solutions splashed on my hands since the early 1980's, and I can still play guitar! You may want to check out an MSDS sheet.

randy fowler
Randall Fowler - Fowler Industrial Plating, LLC
Cleveland, Tennessee, USA


The Dose Makes the Poison
from Abe Books


A. Copper sulfate is only an acute hazard if ingested as a solid, or inhaled as a mist. In these conditions, it can kill in gram quantities. However, the acidic nature of the compound, as described above, means that it acts as an irritant in the stomach, prompting vomiting, which means that the fatal dose is usually much higher. In contact with the skin, less drastic 'Irritant' effects are observed, and sensitive individuals may suffer dermatitis as a result of long term exposure. In practical terms, copper sulfate can be handled routinely in large quantities with no adverse effects, providing basic precautions are taken - such as the sensible advice above about hand washing given above.

Some reptiles, fish and spiders do indeed use copper as the basis of their blood. The oxygen-carrying component of blood consists of a transition metal complex, and under certain evolutionary conditions, it is an advantage for this metal to be copper. The different complex formed means that this blood is blue, instead of the red associated with haemoglobin.

Legislative data: The oral LD50 of copper is 472 mg/kg in rats. This is the dose that killed 50% of a test population that were subjected to it.

PEL (permissible exposure limit) is 1.0 mg/m3 (per 8-hours)in industry.

George Maxwell
- York, North Yorkshire, UK


Q. Hi I am Valerie Moore and I live in Ottawa, Canada. I am tired of buying chlorine for my pool as it is heavy to carry & expensive. I was talking to some of my neighbors and they said they never use chlorine. They use one pound of baking soda [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] and 1 teaspoon of copper sulphate once a week. Keep in mind they use the pool for about 3 months at the most in Canada's summer.
Their pool was crystal clear and they have been doing this for years. I was just going to do the same thing when I thought maybe I should google it to see if it is safe, etc? My pool is smaller so I was going to use 1/2 lb of baking soda and 1/2 a teaspoon of Cu Sulphate.
Do you think I should be worried about it as it is a chemical but so is chlorine and the quantity is so small, maybe it is not an issue? Please respond as I am quite curious about this and would love to hear your response.
Valerie Moore

Valerie Moore
retired gov't employee - Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

July 27, 2010

A. I too live in Ottawa, and my father-in-law uses Cu Sulphate in his pool religiously. He only uses two tablespoons in a 27-foot diameter above-ground, round pool. I have the same pool and am only starting to use it. So far, it's harmless once it's in that large quantity of water. It does make the pool water crystal clear and keeps the algae away. It's more common use is in agriculture, for keeping algae out of watering troughs for livestock. It they can drink water with it in, we can surely swim in much larger amounts.

Terry D'Entremont
- Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

March 12, 2013

A. Hi. Although copper sulphate discourages algae growth, it is not a disinfectant so it does not sound to me like an adequate replacement for chlorine.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

November 22, 2010

Q. What are the elements in copper sulfate and is it made by a factory? Please reply.

Cody Ryan
worker - Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States

March 12, 2013

A. Hi Cody. It's CuSO4.5H20 and made in a factory, but why are you asking? It would help us know if we are correctly interpreting your question.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 12, 2013

Q. Hello sir I am Harjinder; I am 20 years old. I consumed copper sulphate acid and rat killer 2 years ago, but today I had some pain in my stomach. So please tell me what I can do.

Harjinder Singh
Student - Jammu, Kashmir, India

March 12, 2013

A. Hi Harjinder. It sounds unrelated to me based on the passage of 2 years. But I'm not a doctor and if I was I wouldn't offer a diagnosis without a lot of facts. See your doctor for stomach pain. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

September 2, 2013

Q. Hi,

We have inherited a house where Copper sulphate has been used in the swimming pool for about two years now.

I have recently heard that copper sulphate can cause sterility in boys but cannot find any specific related information to support this claim. Can anyone help?

Many thanks

Jenny Collett
- Harare, Zimbabwe

July 28, 2016

Q. Hi
My name is raj
I am studying mpc.
In lab will doing an experiment, I drink copper sulphate which is mixed with distilled water.
Will there be any side effect of it? Please tell me.

mahesh raj
- hyderabad,ap, India

July 2016
Copper toxicity


A. Hi Mahesh. You'll almost surely be sick to your stomach and vomit it up. The vomit may contain your blood, which could contaminate the experiment. It's possible that you'll die and not be able to complete your report.

But discounting the myriad medical problems it may cause, and assuming you live through it, I think the "side effect" would be turning your eyes copper color; I don't know if that means the girls will like you more or less.

What is "mpc"? It sounds like a great course :-)


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

August 4, 2016

A. One of the major principles in science is before you do an study or experiment, check to see if anybody else has explored the same topic.

In this case, Wikipedia alone has plenty of information:

For that matter, the MSDS for the copper sulfate almost certainly advises against this.

Ray Kremer
Stellar Solutions - McHenry Illinois USA

August 2016
Standing on the shoulders of giants

thumbs up sign"We stand on the shoulders of giants" ... but they all lie dead. Was it from drinking copper sulfate? :-)


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

Effects of inhaling Copper Sulfate crystals

August 20, 2016

Q. I was in school I am in High School and we made Copper(II)Sulfate crystals, the blue ones. I was collecting mine and i inhaled a little of the small particles. I was wondering what effect it would have. My nose was burning for awhile but that was all. The next day I got sore throat although I don't think it was the cause. Anyway I was wondering what the effects were.

Jared L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Singapore

August 24, 2016

thumbs up signHi Jared,
I went to the doctors the other day and told him it hurts when I raise my arm.
The doctor said, don't do it then...

Mark Lees
- sun baked rock in the Irish sea

April 16, 2018

Q. We were using copper sulfate to treat hooves and it got on my clothes, staying on my skin for hours. At the end of the day I scrubbed really well, but should I still be worried? How soon would I know if it's gotten into my system? Was diluted 8 lbs to 10 gal water.

James Zimmerman
- Yale, Virginia, USA

April 2018

Occupational Diseases
from Abe Books


Hi James. Personally I would not worry about it. Copper sulfate is in lot of ponds, lakes, and swimming holes; used in drains to discourage roots; and even used as a topical treatment for some skin diseases. But that's just a layman's personal opinion, and your library has books on occupational exposure to such chemicals; and a search with might be productive. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

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