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potassium dioxide is a yellow solid and the simplest oxide of potassium. It is not water soluble and is extremely reactive, so it is rarely encountered in its free form. The ionic form of potassium dioxide is the common ingredient in commercial and industrial soaps. It is also used in the production of certain medications for animal ailments and fungal infections in humans, as well as in the manufacture of glass and ceramics.
When potassium hydroxide (poe-TAS-ium hy-DROK-side) is combined with potassium oxide, it reacts vigorously to produce the caustic compound, potassium hydroxide. It is also a precursor to the formation of some potassium compounds such as potassium carbonate, cyanide, permanganate, and phosphate, which are widely used in agricultural and industrial processes.
The chemical structure of potassium oxide is ionic, and it is the simplest example of an alkali metal oxide. The atoms of potassium are electropositive and oxygen is highly electronegative, so they easily combine to form the ionic compound. Potassium is the most electropositive of the alkali metals, and thus it can easily lose one of its electrons to oxygen in order to form an ionic bond with it.
Potassium oxide is toxic if swallowed, and symptoms include vomiting, difficulty breathing, and holes (perforations) in the esophagus, stomach, and intestines. Treatment depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly medical help is received. A person who swallows large amounts of potassium oxide may need surgery to repair the holes in his or her intestines and stomach.