Ammonia – 10 Things You Should Know

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  1. Water absorbs ammonia to form ammonium hydroxide and has a high pH (alkaline).  Contain pooled amounts in a safe location so the ammonia solution can evaporate or otherwise be mitigated.
  2. Ammonia reacts violently with chlorine, acids brass, copper, silver, and zinc.  These elements corrode rapidly when mixed with ammonia in the presence of moisture.
  3. Large volumes of water dilute ammonia but form a highly corrosive ammonia hydroxide solution.  Avoid using water unless it’s absolutely necessary to protect live (evacuation or rescue).  Never put water on ammonia liquid, an aerosol steam, or an aerosol-dense gas cloud.
  4. Ammonia is easy to contain by tarping the component that is releasing it, especially for outside releases.  For inside releases, close doors and block openings to the buildings with a tarp.
  5. If an ammonia cloud is spreading toward your home or business and you cannot immediately escape upwind safely, stay indoors (shelter in place), seal the doorways and windows, shut off heating and ventilation systems, and wait until the cloud passes.  If ammonia vapor enters the structure where people are sheltered, consider using a wet washcloth over the nose and mouth to catch the ammonia vapors (rinse or replace the cloth if it becomes saturated with ammonia vapor), take shallow breaths through the nose, and/or move to a bathroom and turn on a shower.
  6. Free-flowing ammonia vapor tends to stay together in a a shape of its own, because in dense amounts it creates a cooler-than-ambient environment.  Ammonia travels downwind in a V-pattern and eventually dissipates upward into the atmosphere.
  7. Stay out of a cloud of ammonia contained inside a room, as it may be flammable and will be very cold.
  8. Allow ammonia vapors to escape to the atmosphere unless the release is causing a serious threat to life safety.  Dry, windy weather dissipates ammonia the fastest.  Humid and foggy weather results in poor dissipation.  Inversion pressures (smoggy day) slow dissipation.  Rain dissipates ammonia releases (contain the runoff until the pH is in the 7-9 range).  Ammonia will follow the wind direction and track along low valleys until is dissipates.
  9. The best overall method of handling a release is to control ventilation and reduce pressure by releasing it to the atmosphere (from containment within a building or under a containment tarp).  Allow ammonia to dissipate to the atmosphere if people downwind are adequately protected or evacuated.
  10. If caught in an ammonia release, escape laterally and move upwind.  When the release direction is difficult to assess, move inside to shelter in place or move toward someone who has proper personal protective equipment.

Source: Ammonia Safety & Training Institute; www.ammonia-safety.com

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