Sodium phosphates

Sodium phosphate is a generic term for a variety of salts of sodium (Na+) and phosphate (PO43−). Phosphate also forms families or condensed anions including di-, tri-, tetra-, and polyphosphates. Most of these salts are known in both anhydrous (water-free) and hydrated forms. The hydrates are more common than the anhydrous forms.[1][1]


Sodium phosphates have many applications in food and for water treatment. For example, sodium phosphates are often used as emulsifiers (such as in processed cheese),[2] thickening agents, and leavening agents for baked goods. They are also used to control pH of processed foods.[3] They are also used in medicine for constipation and to prepare the bowel for medical procedures. Moreover, they are used in detergents for softening water, and as an efficient anti rust solution.

Adverse effects

Sodium phosphates are popular in commerce in part because they are inexpensive and because they are nontoxic at normal levels of consumption.[4] However, oral sodium phosphates when taken at high doses for bowel preparation for colonoscopy may in some individuals carry a risk of kidney injury under the form of phosphate nephropathy. There are several oral phosphate formulations which are prepared extemporaneously. Oral phosphate prep drugs have been withdrawn in the United States, although evidence of causality is equivocal.[5] Since safe and effective replacements for phosphate purgatives are available, several medical authorities have recommended general disuse of oral phosphates.[6]


Three families of sodium monophosphates are common, those derived from orthophosphate (PO43−), hydrogen phosphate (HPO42−), and dihydrogenphosphate (H2PO4). Some of the most well known salts are shown in the table.

name formula CAS registry number
monosodium phosphate (anhydrous)NaH2PO47558-80-7
monosodium phosphate (monohydrate)NaH2PO4(H2O)10049-21-5
monosodium phosphate (dihydrate)NaH2PO4(H2O)213472-35-0
disodium phosphate (anhydrous)Na2HPO47558-79-4
disodium phosphate (dihydrate)HNa2PO4(H2O)210028-24-7
disodium phosphate (heptahydrate)HNa2PO4(H2O)77782-85-6
disodium phosphate (octahydrate)HNa2PO4(H2O)8
disodium phosphate (dodecahydrate)HNa2PO4(H2O)1210039-32-4
trisodium phosphate (anhydrous, hexagonal)Na3PO4
trisodium phosphate (anhydrous, cubic)Na3PO47601-54-9
trisodium phosphate (hemihydrate)Na3PO4(H2O)0.5
trisodium phosphate (hexahydrate)Na3PO4(H2O)6
trisodium phosphate (octahydrate)Na3PO4(H2O)8
trisodium phosphate (dodecahydrate)Na3PO4(H2O)1210101-89-0

Di- and polyphosphates

In addition to these phosphates, sodium forms a number of useful salts with pyrophosphates (also called diphosphates), triphosphates and high polymers. Of these salts, those of the diphosphates are particularly common commercially.

name formula CAS Registry number
monosodium diphosphate (anhydrous)NaH3P2O7
disodium diphosphate (anhydrous)Na2H2P2O77758-16-9
disodium diphosphate (hexahydrate)Na2H2P2O7(H2O)6
trisodium diphosphate (anhydrous)Na3HP2O7
trisodium diphosphate (monohydrate)Na3HP2O7(H2O)
trisodium diphosphate (nonahydrate)Na3HP2O7(H2O)9
tetrasodium diphosphate (anhydrous)Na4P2O77722-88-5
tetrasodium diphosphate (decahydrate)Na4P2O7(H2O)1013472-36-1

Beyond the diphosphates, sodium salts are known triphosphates, e.g. sodium triphosphate and tetraphospates. The cyclic polyphosphates, called metaphosphates, include the trimer sodium trimetaphosphate and the tetramer, Na3P3O9 and Na4P4O12, respectively.

Polymeric sodium phosphates are formed upon heating mixtures of NaH2PO4 and Na2HPO4, which induces a condensation reaction. The specific polyphosphate generated depends on the details of the heating and annealling. One derivative is the glassy (i.e., amorphous) Graham's salt. Crystalline high molecular weight polyphosphates include Kurrol's salt and Maddrell's salt (CAS#10361-03-2). These species have the formula [NaPO3]n[NaPO3(OH)]2 where n can be as great as 2000. In terms of their structures, these polymers consist of PO3 "monomers", with the chains are terminated by protonated phosphates.[1]


  1. Klaus Schrödter; Gerhard Bettermann; Thomas Staffel; Friedrich Wahl; Thomas Klein; Thomas Hofmann (2012). "Phosphoric Acid and Phosphates". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. doi:10.1002/14356007.a19_465.pub3.
  3. Lampila, Lucina E. (2013). "Applications and functions of food-grade phosphates". Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1301 (1): 37–44. Bibcode:2013NYASA1301...37L. doi:10.1111/nyas.12230.
  4. Razzaque, M. S. (2011). "Phosphate toxicity: New insights into an old problem". Clinical Science. 120 (3): 91–97. doi:10.1042/CS20100377. PMC 3120105. PMID 20958267.
  5. Markawitz, GB; Parezelli, MA (Aug 12, 2007), "Acute Phosphate Nephropathyl", Kidney Int., 76 (10), pp. 1027–34, doi:10.1038/ki.2009.308, PMID 19675530
  6. Mackey, AC; Breen, L; Amand, KS; Evigan, M (August 2007), "Sodium phosphate tablets and acute Phosphate Nephropathy", Am J Gastroenterol, 104 (8), pp. 1903–6, doi:10.1038/ajg.2009.342, PMID 19661931
  • Bell, Russel N (April 1973), "Sodium Aluminum Phosphate Cheese Emulsifying Agent", US Patent 3726960
  • Lien, YH (16 July 2008), "Is bowel preparation before colonoscopy a risky business for the kidney?", Nature Clinical Practice Nephrology, 4 (11): 606–14, doi:10.1038/ncpneph0939, PMID 18797448
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