Anhydrous ammonia, also called ammonia or referred to as anhydrous, was used to produce explosives during World War 1. Today, ammonia is a refrigerant in mechanical compression systems as well as being used for agricultural production. About 80% of anhydrous ammonia goes to agriculture as a fertilizer.
Ammonia is mass-manufactured by reacting nitrogen and hydrogen in a high temperature and pressure environment. Water is not present for the reaction, thus the term anhydrous.
Anhydrous ammonia chemical spills in Madison County and throughout Illinois are fairly common because of ammonia’s use in farming. Most ammonia spills happen during transportation to farms.
On April 25, 2019, one such spill in Lake County, Illinois, led to the evacuation of 83 people to local hospitals due to exposure. After such an incident, a skilled farm injury attorney could help hold the responsible party accountable for the harm caused.
The Risk from Anhydrous Ammonia
Even under ambient conditions, anhydrous ammonia is very toxic. You can receive injuries from skin contact, drinking, or breathing in ammonia. This toxicity makes any spills raise many health and safety flags and may even cause a town to evacuate.
If you come into contact with anhydrous ammonia, you should know:
If ammonia comes into contact with skin, it can leave a burning sensation, swelling, stinging pain, and irritation. Severe exposure can result in penetrating burns, tissue death, blistering, and inflammation.
Contact with liquid ammonia can cause frostbite.
Getting ammonia in your eyes can lead to eye inflammation and cause swelling, sloughing of surface eye cells, and blindness.
There are several ways ammonia can cause explosions; some are more likely than others.
If the chemical is compressed into gas cylinders and left in a hot area, the pressure build-up may result in an explosion.
After a spill, the concentration of anhydrous ammonia gas in the air may be high enough, about 15%, that it can easily ignite.
Ammonia decomposes into hydrogen and nitrogen dioxide at high temperatures. Hydrogen is highly flammable and requires very little energy to ignite. Nitrogen dioxide is also a very toxic chemical.
It Can Cause Breathing Problems.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, ammonia can cause breathing problems, wheezing, chest pains, and asphyxiation in poorly ventilated areas.
Damage the Coronary Tract
Ingesting ammonia is not common, but it sometimes happens. If someone drinks or eats ammonia, you can expect vomiting, abdominal pain, and burns to the mouth, esophagus, and stomach.
If the exposure is severe, you can expect corrosive damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach.
What Should You Do in Case of an Anhydrous Ammonia Spill Exposure?
There are different levels of exposure depending on the concentration of ammonia.
- At 25 – 35 parts per million (ppm), the levels of ammonia are safe, but you can still smell it
- At 500 ppm, you feel severe throat and nose irritation.
- At 1,500 ppm, you have a difficult time breathing.
If you detect an ammonia leak, notify someone in charge about it immediately, and if the spill is severe, sound the alarm so others can avoid the contaminant. You should also put on a respirator and leave the area. If the ammonia spill is outdoors, head upwind so you do not get poisoned.
If liquid ammonia spills on you, wash out exposed areas like the eyes and skin with water for at least fifteen minutes. Strip down to your underwear before washing and avoid breaking skin in the process.
If the victim inhales ammonia gas, check to make sure there are no breathing problems and the airway is free of obstruction. Administer oxygen if the victim has trouble breathing.
Do not induce vomiting or administer anything orally if the victim ingested ammonia. Instead, ensure the airway is not blocked and provide supplemental oxygen if needed.
Legal Course of Action for Madison County Ammonia Spills
If an anhydrous ammonia spill in Madison County has affected you, you should contact a personal injury attorney for legal advice. You can file a personal injury lawsuit against the organization or individuals responsible for monetary compensation.