Accidental exposure is mostly a risk for workers in plants making or using ammonia.
The effects of exposure at high levels are mainly due to the extremely caustic nature of ammonia. As a gas, it is particularly damaging to the respiratory system, and can result in irreversible lung damage or death.
Ammonia is transported as a liquid at 10 atmospheres pressure, and is under pressure in refrigeration systems. In the event of an accident releasing ammonia, the liquid rapidly boils, resulting in extreme cooling. This results in "frost burns" on skin.

Aquarium Fish
The use of chloramine (ClH2N) by some water companies to help control bacteria created a problem for keepers of freshwater fish. Chlorine, which can distress the fish, is easily removed by adding small amounts of sodium thiosulphate (which forms sodium chloride) or by aerating the water for at least 24 hours. These methods have no effect on chloramine.
Treatments are now available that remove both chlorine and chloramine.
photo: fish in aquarium

Bacterial action in soil produces huge quantities of ammonia, most of which is converted to the sulphate or nitrate in the atmosphere, and is deposited on land.

In areas of intensive farming, local atmospheric levels may be high through the use of manure.

Ammonia is also produced by the human digestive system. It is distributed round the body and mostly forms urea, excreted in urine. Ammonia from external sources is generally very low, and is readily absorbed into the body "pool".


  back to top