Ammonia is widely used as a soil fertilizer because it is efficient to apply and readily available. However, it can pose serious health risks to workers who are exposed to it at concentrated levels. In fact, ammonia is one of the most hazardous chemicals used in agriculture. If you apply, handle or are exposed to ammonia fertilizer, it is important that you take necessary safety precautions to avoid serious health problems.
Ammonia is extremely corrosive to the eyes, skin and lungs. If inhaled, it will irritate the eyes, nose and throat, and can cause severe coughing or choking. Those with asthma are typically especially sensitive to ammonia fumes. Even without inhalation, prolonged exposure to either the liquid or gaseous form can also result in eye damage and chemical burns on the skin.
- To reduce your risk of overexposure when using ammonia fertilizer, use only the amount and concentration required for the task at hand.
- Wear appropriate personal protective gear when working with ammonia, including long sleeves, thick rubber gloves and chemical-proof safety goggles. Do not wear contact lenses when working with this chemical. You may also consider wearing a full-face respirator to protect against inhalation.
- Store ammonia in a cool, dry area away from chlorine, acid, oxidizers and metals. Be especially careful to avoid mixing chlorine and ammonia, as it can produce a toxic gas.
- Frequently inspect storage facilities and processing equipment to prevent exposure and accidental leaks.
- Always use the product according to the directions on the label. Also, be sure to read operating instructions before using ammonia application equipment.
- When applying ammonia fertilizer, you should always have at least five gallons of clean water accessible to you in case of emergency. You should also have a separate 8-ounce eyewash bottle.
- Watch for signs of skin contact with ammonia—redness, pain, burns and irritations. If your clothes are accidentally splashed, remove them immediately and wash your skin for 15 minutes.
- If ammonia splashes in your eyes, flush them with water for 15 minutes and seek medical treatment immediately.
If you must work in an area where ammonia fertilizer was recently applied, use proper protective gear. Soil contains hazardous fumes for a couple of days after application.
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