What are the dangers of anhydrous ammonia

The dangers of ammonia in the food and beverage industry

Dave Wagner | Thursday April 8, 2021

There is a general lack of awareness in the food and beverage industry about surveillance and gases and related safety. Carbon dioxide, a colorless and odorless gas, is perhaps the most common gas in the food and beverage industry, but it is hardly the only gas to worry about. Ammonia (NH3), one of the most widely used chemicals in the world, is the preferred choice for industrial refrigeration, flash freezing and container storage because of its superior cooling properties and low cost. Although ammonia as a refrigerant is so is widespread, most food and beverage facilities do not have the necessary protocols or equipment to protect employees in the event of a leak. Ammonia is toxic, even in small amounts, and employees must wear personal protective equipment when working with it. To be safe, understand the risks of exposure to ammonia, as well as the gas detectors you will need to identify this invisible gas hazard Risk of Ammonia Refrigeration Systems Learn about choosing the right gas detectors to protect your workers and equipment. Download eBook Even with routine maintenance and preventative measures, refrigerant leaks can and will occur. In larger systems, most leaks occur in the room where the refrigerant compressors are located. General wear and tear can cause Schrader plugs, thread seals, neoprene O-rings, and other refrigeration parts to leak. When used in refrigeration, ammonia is converted into a liquid known as anhydrous ammonia. In the event of a leak, this liquid quickly turns into a gaseous form, toxic to those who breathe it. Although ammonia is colorless, it has a strong and pungent odor that most people can smell. However, this does NOT mean that you can rely on the smell to detect ammonia. Studies have shown that the threshold at which we can smell ammonia varies widely, and in some cases ammonia can reach harmful levels before a human can detect it. Ammonia, like any other gas, is measured in parts per million (PPM). The higher the concentration, the more harmful ammonia becomes. Ammonia can be fatal and even explosive at high concentrations. 0-25 PPM: Eyes irritate, breathing can be difficult. 25 PPM: Acceptable limit (OSHA). 50-100 PPM: Swelling of the eyelids, conjunctivitis, nausea. 100 -500 PPM: Concentrations are dangerously high, irritation becomes more intense. Long-term exposure to high concentrations can cause death. Reduce Risks with Gas Detectors If your food and beverage company uses ammonia for refrigeration, shock freezing, or large volume storage, you will need to use portable or area gas detectors to detect this gas hazard Personal protection detectors, such as the Ventis Pro5, are flexible gas detectors that employees can wear to detect ammonia no matter where they are. These monitors also share real-time gas readings, hold man's and emergency alarms with other gas detectors and live monitoring software. This alarm release provides additional transparency and acts as a protection so that someone always knows when another worker is encountering dangerous conditions. If you have a large room with a cooling system, consider using an area monitor as well. In the event of gas leaks, it is best to know what is happening remotely and area monitors make this possible. Area monitors, such as the Radius BZ1, should be installed wherever gas hazards may be present. The area monitor can alert you to ammonia that you would not otherwise detect until a worker enters the room while wearing a gas detector for personal protection. Area monitors can also share ammonia readings with portable monitors so that nearby workers know when and where there is an ammonia spill and they must put on extra PPE before approaching the area. Ammonia can cause health problems at low levels and at high levels be flammable, explosive, and fatal so you must take leaks seriously. Keep your people, inventory, and business safe by building a gas detector program that will identify ammonia spills before you get caught cold. Talk to our gas detection experts to find the right ammonia gas detector for your application. Dave Wagner Director of Applications Engineering and Product Knowledge at Industrial Scientific