Ammonia is a colourless gas with a very distinct odour. People may readily recognize this smell because it is used in many household cleaners and window cleaning products. High levels of airborne ammonia gas can dissolve in water to cause corrosive ammonium hydroxide. Most people smell ammonia before it causes any health effects. The Thunder Bay District Health Unit’s role is to raise awareness about the potential hazards of ammonia.
How Can Ammonia Affect My Health?
Everyone is exposed to low levels of naturally occurring ammonia in air, food, water and soil. Exposure to high levels of ammonia in air may be irritating to your skin, eyes, throat and lungs, and can cause coughing and burns. Ammonia at high concentrations can cause lung damage and death.
How Can Ammonia Enter and Leave My Body?
Ammonia does not accumulate in the body. After you breathe in ammonia, you breathe most of it out again. Small amounts of ammonia can travel through your bloodstream to different areas of your body, but it leaves your body in urine within a couple of days.
What Do I Do If I Am Exposed to High Levels of Ammonia?
- Move to fresh air immediately
- In case of contact with substance, immediately flush skin or eyes with running water for at least 20 minutes
- If you have any concerns seek medical attention