Ammonia exposure may be common for those regularly using household cleaning products. Exposure injuries are likely to be mild, although chronic exposure can lead to serious health problems over time.
Aside from cleaning solutions, ammonia is a versatile chemical component of several industries in America, including agriculture and food processing. The widespread use of ammonia on farms and in industrial locations dictates that exposure can occur from an accidental release or from regular heavy usage.
Most people are exposed to ammonia from inhalation of the gas or vapors. Ammonia interacts with human tissue immediately upon contact with the skin, eyes, and most commonly the respiratory tract. Ammonia may cause mild irritation or it may lead to serious illness with heavy or chronic exposure in the workplace.
Ammonia is used as a refrigerant gas, for water purification, waste treatment, and in the manufacture of plastics, cosmetics, dyes, textiles, pesticides, rubber and other chemicals. It is found in many household cleaning solutions, although ammonia applications for industrial use are of more concern as concentrations of ammonia can be up to 25 percent, and are highly toxic and corrosive.
Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Ohio Toxic Tort and Personal Injury Attorney, representing plaintiffs nationwide in a wide variety of civil litigation claims.
Ammonia Exposure Lawsuits
In 2017, Tyson Foods reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department after allegations of safety regulation violations at food processing facilities in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, where Tyson workers were exposed to dangerous levels of ammonia.
Tyson Foods agreed to pay almost $4 million for committing “various violations,” related to anhydrous ammonia, a gas commonly used in food refrigeration. The gas is known to cause burning, choking and severe illness in heavy exposure.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers ammonia an “extremely hazardous” substance and regulates its industrial use. Several Tyson Foods employees were reportedly injured in accidental ammonia releases between 2006 and 2010, resulting in at least one death.
Industries Commonly Utilizing Ammonia
About 80 percent of the ammonia produced in the United States is used in fertilizers. Workers in fertilizer plants or those working with fertilizers in agriculture may be exposed to large doses of ammonia and fall ill after acute or chronic exposure. It is also possible to be exposed to high levels of ammonia at home using cleaning products containing ammonia. More common, however, are injuries at the workplace in the following industries:
• Fertilizer plants
• Food processing plants
• Farm and agriculture
• Air conditioning
• Corrosion inhibitors
• Water purification
• Pulp and paper
• Textile and leather industries
• Waste treatment
Ammonia is a common ingredient in household cleaning products such as the following:
• Oven Cleaners
• Glass and Window Cleaners
• Toilet Cleaners
• Drain Cleaners
• Shining Waxes
• Multipurpose Cleaners
Symptoms of Ammonia Exposure
Ammonia exposure injuries are most commonly caused by inhalation, although injury may follow ingestion or direct contact with eyes or skin. Symptoms usually subside in one or two days, but serious cases can cause complications. Symptoms of ammonia exposure include the following:
• Itchy throat
• Chest tightness
• Eye irritation
• Abdominal pain
• Facial burns
• Oral burns and ulcerations
• Various respiratory symptoms
• Loss of consciousness (in very heavy exposure)