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What Is EDTA, And Where Is It Used?

by Gerard

EDTA or Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid has applications in managing and treating heavy metal toxicity. It is a chelation agent which was first synthesized in the mid-1930s. EDTA is primarily a medication agent that prevents calcium bonds from forming in the human body.

In addition to the edta chelation, there is another agent called edetate disodium. However, it has better calcium-binding properties but poses severe hypocalcemia risks. Other than medicinal uses, EDTA has other applications as well. Let’s look at some of the typical utilizations of the compound.

Industrial Uses

  • Industrial processes mainly use EDTA to bind metallic ions in the aqueous solutions. Metal ion impurities result in unwanted decolorization in the dyed product, which EDTA helps prevent.
  • Next comes the paper industry. EDTA prevents positive metal ions like magnesium from speeding the hydrogen peroxides to disproportions. Maintaining the right proportion is necessary for effective chlorine-free bleaching.
  • Similarly, EDTA has its place in the food industry as well. It is added to canned foods to prevent the decolorizations produced due to metal ions. Furthermore, in soft drinks, the addition of EDTA prevents benzene formation.


One of the most significant applications of EDTA is medicine. Here a derivative of EDTA called Sodium Calcium Edetate binds the metallic ions in the body to prevent mercury and lead poisoning.


Dentists use EDTA solutions to remove the inorganic smear layer from the tooth root canals as a preparatory measure for obturation. Furthermore, EDTA helps cure the calcifications inside the root canals, which makes room in the tight canal roots for operating.


EDTA also works as a catalyst and a preservative for compounds like benzalkonium chloride or thiomersal in eye drops.


Although unseen, EDTA is also present in cosmetics. Adding EDTA to cleansers, shampoos, and other cosmetic products increases their in-air stability.

Water Treatment

Water treatment is another significant application of EDTA. Hard water damages industrial water equipment like boilers and containers. Therefore, it is necessary to treat it so the machinery can endure.

Hard water has a higher concentration of calcium and magnesium ions. Here EDTA acts as an indicator and helps determine the water’s hardness level.

Laboratory Uses

Chemists use EDTA as a sequestering agent as it forms a water-soluble metallic chelate compound. It is also needed in ion-exchange chromatography to separate lanthanide metals and other such analytical chemistry processes.

EDTA also finds its spot in the biochemistry field. It prevents metal ion contamination and controls unwanted enzyme activities. Moreover, its derivative, Disodium EDTA, aids the separation of protein from DNA using the electrophoresis process.

Usage Heart Treatment

EDTA finds routine in various heart treatments. It treats digoxin toxicity, a condition that alters the heart’s rhythm. EDTA has the necessary properties to reduce digoxin levels, eventually bringing the heart to its natural pace.

Experts believe that EDTA can also cure atherosclerosis (a condition in which the arteries become stiff) by clearing the blockage inside. Similarly, it can cure another medical condition called peripheral vascular disease (decreased blood flow in the legs). However, there are limited studies that support this theory.

The Bottom Line

EDTA finds applications in various fields. The compound was initially synthesized for medical uses by Ferdinand Münz in the 1930s. However, later, its benefits earned it a place in other significant areas like chemistry, cosmetics, water treatment, and food preservation.

The compound doesn’t occur naturally. Its chemical structure allows it to form six-membered rings with many metals. That is why it increases the stability of the reactant.

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