What is Anhydrous Ammonia
Anhydrous Ammonia or simply “Ammonia” as it is often colloquially termed, is an organic chemical compound consisting of Nitrogen (1) & Hydrogen (3). Its has superior thermodynamic properties & as such is used commonly in New Zealand as a refrigerant in industrial process & cold storage applications. Although it is commercially produced on a mass scale to service the needs of man Ammonia is also found abundantly in nature, from rain water, our atmosphere, soils as well as produced by all mammals to balance acids. In higher concentrations (>25ppm) ammonia has a distinctive sharp & pungent odor that is easily identified & typically repulsive to the un-assimilated. Many other chemicals retain no odour and can reach harmful concentrations without our knowledge. Ammonia’s characteristic aroma serves as an early warning before concentrations can become either flammable or toxic.
Is Ammonia a Hazardous Substance?
Ammonia is a low frequency - High consequence risk, uncontrolled releases rarely end in tradegy - provided that effective preventitive & prepardness controls are in place, Ammonia risk can be well managed. Ammonia is acutely Toxic, Corrosive & is also flammable in the right mixture with air. (16%-27%)This respiratory irritant is highly soluble in water forming Ammonium Hydroxide & attack moist tissue membranes such as the eyes & sinuses, throat & lungs as well as under arms & groin. It is important to note Ammonia is naturally & essentially produced by biological organisms & forms an crucial part of the decaying process of animal & vegetable matter.
Will i be permanently affected?
According to the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES There is no evidence that suggests Ammonia is carcinogenic & or has contributed to any birth defects. Chronic long term inhalation has been associated with increased cough, phlegm, wheeze and asthma, it is paramount respiratory protection is worn in any elevated concentrations not typically found in nature. Occupational guidelines limit inhalation to 25 parts per million (ppm) during an eight hour period & 35 ppm during a 15 minute period. Ammonia can not be absorbed through the skin & will not accumulate in the body as it is neutralized & released via the urinary system & exhaled through the breath.
What do I do in an Emergency?
During an Ammonia release it is important to remain calm so you can make educated decisions. If you can smell Ammonia it will let you know if it is causing you harm. Your eyes will begin to water between >50->100 ppm in most persons, unless this has occurred or you are having trouble breathing there is no need to be too alarmed. Stay indoors if you are inside, close all windows & shutdown all air conditioning supply ventilation stay low. Ascertain which direction the Ammonia is coming from. Where instructed by emergency personnel, or where fumes are engulfing the space you are in evacuate laterally (cross wind) & upwind of the release source. If the situation is a serious concern to your health you may utilize a wet cloth to act as a make shift filter. Remembering Ammonia is hydrophilic the wet cloth will have a temporary service life.If you are already outside again locate the source & either retreat or evacuate laterally to the wind. If you are in a Car close all windows & ventilation dampers. In our atmosphere, Ammonia boils & expands rapidly - the higher the ambient temperature the larger & faster the expansion. In its gas state it is lighter than air however due to certain weather conditions, it accumulate in pockets and stay low to the ground. Ammonia can appear in liquid and aerosol state for extended periods due to its high latent heat capacity (ability to absorb energy during phase change) again these states can remain on the ground. Never enter an Ammonia aerosol cloud regardless of respiratory protective equipment as it is can reach extremely low temperatures (-30 to -77) that most protective clothing are incapable of sustaining. Do not spray liquid Ammonia with water as its exothermic properties will cause a volatile reaction. Ammonia can be neutralized with mild acids & carbon dioxide in a controlled manor by a competent person.It is vital that users of Ammonia has well planned & stress tested emergency management protocols in place.