Q:

What is KC2H3O2?

A:

KC2H3O2 is potassium acetate. It is commonly used to remove ice from airport runways, and it is sometimes used as a food preservative. Patients who are low on electrolytes are sometimes given it to replenish their potassium levels.

Potassium acetate can effectively melt ice, and it causes less harm to hard surfaces than other chemicals used for this purpose. However, its manufacturing process makes it more expensive than other available options, so it is not often used for this role. In the United States, however, about two-thirds of airport runways are treated using it to prevent premature damage.

It is also used in diluted form to help patients recover their potassium levels. Potassium and other electrolytes are essential for brain function, and levels will sometimes drop if a patient has been dehydrated. By slowly adding potassium acetate, hospitals can help these patients recover.

Treating patients with potassium acetate requires regular monitoring. High levels of potassium cause a condition called hyperkalemia, which can harm the kidneys and cause a patient's heart to stop. In addition, potassium acetate solutions often contain trace amount of aluminum. While this aluminum is not a risk for short-term treatment, it can build up over time and cause toxicity.

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