Sodium saccharin (more commonly known as saccharin) is a non-caloric, non-nutritive artificial sweetener. In its pure form, this white, crystalline powder tastes several hundred times sweeter than granulated sugar. Saccharin is sold commercially, and it is commonly used in low-calorie foods and beverages to bestow a sweet taste.
Saccharin is frequently incorporated into products that require sweetening, but where the use of natural sugar might lead to premature spoilage. As a sugar substitute, saccharin is a popular tabletop sweetener, and a common ingredient in baked goods, chewing gum, candy, and salad dressings. Cosmetics, various health aids, and pharmaceuticals utilize saccharin as well.
Discovered in 1879 by chemists Ira Remsen and Constantin Fahlberg, saccharin was the world's first commercially available artificial sweetener. Originally, the primary users of saccharin were individuals such as diabetics, whose diets required restricted intake of sugar or carbohydrates. However, sugar rationing during World Wars I and II created a tremendous demand for a readily available substitute sweetener, and saccharin use saw a dramatic upswing, especially in Europe.
Interestingly, this artificial sweetener was the accidental product of scientific studies into the chemistry of toluene, and it is actually a derivative of coal tar. Today, saccharin continues to be formulated by the oxidation of o-toluenesulfonamide, but it is now also produced from phthalic anhydride.
Controversy surrounds the safety and possible carcinogenic effects of consuming synthetic sweeteners, which has prompted numerous scientific studies, and extensive, ongoing research. Current scientific research indicates that saccharin is not metabolized nor digested by the body. Rather, it passes through the body and is excreted unchanged.
An organic compound that naturally occurs in certain plants, hydroquinone can also be formed by chemically reducing benzoquinone. After processing, the diketone generally appears as an off-white powder or as fine, white, crystalline needles, and is freely soluble in warm water or alcohol. Industrial applications include the utilization of hydroquinone as an inhibitor or retardant in the production of plastics and rubber.
Hydroquinone is extensively employed as a chemical intermediate in the production of many dyes, varnishes, motor fuels, oils, and paints. It is also found in various consumer products including dermatological drugs, medicaments, and hair cosmetics. Hydroquinone is generally produced in small volume through a complex process, and proper handling and precautions are required.
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