What is Ammonia?

Ammonia (chemical formula: NH3) is an alkaline liquid. It is colourless with a very strong and pungent odour. Ammonia mixes well with water, but does not mix with most organic solvents. 

What is Ammonia used for?

Ammonia has many uses, some of which include: 

  • A detergent
  • A reagent
  • pH adjustment
  • Calico printing
  • Bleaching/removing stains
  • Extracting plant colours/alkaloids
  • Refrigerant gas 
  • Metal treatment
  • Extraction of metal from ores
  • Processing crude oil
  • In the manufacturing of:
    • Fertilisers
    • Nitric acid
    • Ammonium salts
    • Aniline salts
    • Dyes
    • Pharmaceuticals
    • Explosives
    • Rayon and polymers
Ammonia can be a powerful cleaner around the home. Just remember to never mix it with chlorine bleach, or toxic fumes will result. 
Ammonia can be a powerful cleaner around the home. Just remember to never mix it with chlorine bleach, or toxic fumes will result. 

Ammonia Hazards

The routes of exposure for ammonia include inhalation ingestion and skin and eye contact. 

Inhalation of ammonia vapours can cause coughing, irritation to the eyes, nose and respiratory tract, vomiting and reddening of the lips, mouth, nose and throat. Exposure to higher concentrations can lead to loss of consciousness, coma, temporary blindness, tightness in the chest, lung damage, restlessness, a weak pulse and cause the skin to turn blue. Lethal exposure can be caused due to asphyxiation or fluid in the lungs.

Ammonia can cause chemical burns to the mouth and gastrointestinal tract if ingested. Other symptoms of ingestion include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain, fever, a drop in blood pressure, central nervous system disorders, loss of consciousness, spasms, collapse, respiratory paralysis, anxiety, flaccidity of facial muscles and impairment of motor performance, among others. Death is also a possibility, due to suffocation , aspiration or circulatory collapse. 

Ammonia can produce chemical burns following exposure to the skin. Entry into the bloodstream through open cuts and wounds should also be avoided. Extensive burning can be lethal. 

Eye exposure can lead to chemical burns to the eye and other severe lesions. Concentrated ammonia vapours can also cause eye irritation. Severe cases can lead to loss of sight.

Ammonia Safety

If inhaled, remove the patient from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source. Lay the patient down and ensure they are kept warm and rested. If the patient is not breathing and you are qualified to do so, perform CPR, preferably with a bag-valve mask device. 

If swallowed, urgent hospital treatment is likely to be required. Vomiting should not be induced, however if it occurs, lean the patient forward or placed on their left side to prevent aspiration. Give the patient water to rinse their mouth out and they should slowly drink as much as they comfortably can. Observe the patient carefully and seek medical attention without delay. 

In the event of skin exposure, remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories and flush the body and hair with plenty of water using a safety shower in available. Seek medical attention.

If eye exposure occurs, flush the eyes out immediately with water, remembering to wash under the eyelids. Contact lenses should only be removed by a skilled professional. Seek medical attention without delay.

Ammonia Safety Handling

Emergency eyewash fountains and safety showers should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical. Adequate ventilation to remove or dilute any air contaminants to prevent overexposure (install local exhaust if necessary) is a must. 

The PPE recommended when handling ammonia includes, chemical goggles, full face shield, PVC gloves, safety footwear, overalls, PVC aprons and PVC protective suits.

Dire consequences can result due to the improper handling of ammonia. Always refer to the SDS prior to handling hazardous chemicals. Click here for a trial of our SDS Management Software or contact us at sa***@ch*******.net for more information about our chemicals management solutions. 

Chemwatch has the largest collection of SDS in the world. For a FREE copy of the Chemwatch-authored SDS for Ammonia, click the button below.