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What is Ammonia?

Ammonia is a clear gas with a sharp odor. It is commonly sold in liquid form, which is corrosive and can destroy solid materials. It is also produced naturally by bacteria, decaying plants and animals, and animal waste.

Ammonia is primarily used to make fertilizer. It is also used to make cleaning products, pesticides, and other chemicals.

See also: Construction Factories Homes Brownfield Fuel Industry Air Pollution Agriculture Asthma and other Lung Diseases

Where is Ammonia found?

  • Consumer products - primarily in pesticides and cleaning products
  • Natural environment - in plants, animals, water, soil, and air
  • Farms – in some fertilizers and pesticides; also produced by animal waste

How can I be exposed to Ammonia?

Ammonia commonly enter(s) the body through:


Inhalation (breathing)

  • Breathing fertilizer or consumer products that contain ammonia

Skin contact

  • Touching liquid ammonia or products that contain ammonia

What happens when I am exposed to Ammonia?

Exposure to high levels of ammonia in the air can cause:

  • Skin, eyes, throat, and lung irritation
  • Coughing
  • Burns
  • Lung damage and death (at a very high concentration)

Swallowing concentrated solutions of ammonia can cause:

  • Burns in the mouth, throat, and stomach

Splashing ammonia into your eyes can cause:

  • Burns
  • Blindness

Some people with asthma may be more sensitive to breathing ammonia than others.

Who is at risk for exposure to Ammonia?

  • Consumers - many cleaning products contain ammonia.
  • Farmers - some fertilizers and pesticides contain ammonia; animal waste produces ammonia.

Reduce your risk

NEVER mix ammonia with chlorine bleach or products that contain chlorine. This produces extremely dangerous toxic chlorine vapor that may be fatal.
If you think your health has been affected by exposure to ammonia, contact your health care professional.

Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling chemicals. For poisoning emergencies or questions about possible poisons, please contact your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

  • Do the cleaning products you use contain ammonia or smell like ammonia?
  • Do you use pesticides that contain ammonia?
  • Read the labels on cleaning products to see if they contain ammonia; always follow usage instructions.
  • Wear protective clothing (e.g., rubber gloves) when you use ammonia products.
  • Avoid areas where ammonia fertilizers are used.
  • Use proper ventilation when you use ammonia products.
  • Keep children away from ammonia products.

National Library of Medicine Resources and Databases

Additional Resources

  • Ammonia. ToxFAQs
    Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
    Factsheet with answers to most frequently asked questions about ammonia exposure and its effect on human health, developed by a federal public health agency that protects communities from harmful health effects related to exposure to natural and man-made hazardous substances.
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