What are the dangers of ammonia exposure?

If someone is exposed to the manufactured form of concentrated ammonia, they may suffer from severe chemical burns that in some cases permanently damage/disfigure the skin and respiratory tract.

  • Inhalation: Nasopharyngeal and tracheal burns will occur, bronchiolar and alveolar edema, and airway destruction that could result in respiratory failure.
  • Skin/eye contact: Liquified ammonia can cause frostbite, low concentrations of gas can irritate the eyes and nose, higher concentrations can cause permanent eye injury, industrial ammonia solutions for cleaning can cause corrosive burns.
  • Ingestion: If ammonium hydroxide is ingested it can cause corrosive damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach. Ingestion usually does not result in systemic poisoning. 

If exposed to any sort of concentrated liquified ammonium, the contaminated area must be removed of any sort of clothing, jewelry, or shoes and rinsed with water for 20-30 minutes. Do NOT apply burn salve or ointment as this might react with any ammonia residue and make the burn even worse. Immediately seek medical attention to access the damage and to see if anything can be done to repair the skin and help it heal faster. Immediate medical attention also applies with those exposed to high concentrations of gas or those who have ingested any varieties of ammonium.

What can I do to prevent these emergencies?

Ammonia related emergencies can be prevented with the correct ammonia pipe markers to alert the employees about the danger. Proper labeling is also very useful in emergencies as the labels tell first responders what procedures they need to follow through with, otherwise they are left guessing with the employees who also don’t know.

Aside from labeling, proper PPE is always a good preventer for these hazardous materials. Oftentimes, if PPE is required by OSHA the employer is required to purchase it for employees (this was deemed by a final rule published in 2007 for CFR 29). It has been found that the employer will pick the correct PPE rather than the employee who might make a mistake. This means they will inherently be safer in the workplace. 


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