Elemental sulfur is used in black gunpowder, matches, and fireworks; in the vulcanization of rubber; as a fungicide, insecticide, and fumigant; in the manufacture of phosphate fertilizers; and in the treatment of certain skin diseases. The principal use of sulfur, however, is in the preparation of its compounds. The most important sulfur compound is sulfuric acid. Other important compounds include sulfur dioxide, used as a bleaching agent, disinfectant, and refrigerant; sodium bisulfite, used in paper manufacture; carbon disulfide, an important organic solvent; hydrogen sulfide, sulfur trioxide, and thionyl chloride, used as reagents in chemistry; Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate), used as a laxative, bath additive, exfoliant, and magnesium supplement in plant nutrition; the numerous other sulfate compounds; and sulfa drugs.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.