Sulfate is found in most fresh water supplies. Some regions have higher sulfate levels than others. In foods, sulfate is present as the salts of sodium, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, ammonium, and potassium.
A surfactant is the primary ingredient in soaps or shampoos that provides the cleaning benefit.
Sulfates break up grease on the hair, allowing it to be rinsed away. In hair products, like shampoo, sulfates remove natural oils, dirt and hair product residue. Sulfates can be rather harsh for sensitive skin, and may strip away color, according to LorealParisUSA.com.
Sodium lauryl sulfate is probably the most commonly used anionic surfactant in the personal-care business.
Sulfate is one of the major dissolved components of rain.
Sulfates and sulfuric acid products are used in the production of fertilizers, chemicals, dyes, glass, paper, soaps, textiles, fungicides, insecticides, astringents and emetics. They are also used in the mining, wood pulp, metal and plating industries, in sewage treatment and in leather processing (Greenwood & Earnshaw, 1984).
High concentrations of sulfate in the water we drink can have a laxative effect when combined with calcium and magnesium, the two most common constituents of hardness. Bacteria, which attack and reduce sulfates, form hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S).
As a safety measure, water with a sulfate level exceeding 400 mg/l should not be used in the preparation of baby food.
There are sulfite sensitive individuals who have asthma problems from red wine and dried fruit (such as apricots and golden raisins) that have added (not just natural) sulfites. Some of these sulfite sensitive individuals generally do not have asthma problems from red wine that only has sulfites naturally inherent to the grapes.
"Sulfates are minerals just beneath the surface that shout to us that they were formed in steam vents, since steam has sulfur in it. Steam is associated with hydrothermal activity – evidence of water-charged explosive volcanism. Such areas could have once supported life."