NH3 First Aid (News Release)

It's essential to wear protective gear when you work with anhydrous ammonia, but you also must know what to do in case of an accidental spill. If you're well prepared and can act quickly, you may be able to prevent serious injury.

The word "anhydrous" literally means "without water." The chemical will draw moisture from the nearest source, including the human body. Contact with skin can cause third-degree burns, leading to blindness if it reaches the eyes, or death by suffocation if inhaled.

Thoroughly rinsing the exposed areas with water for at least 15 to 20 minutes is the best way to avoid serious skin and eye injuries. However, it's critical to flood the area immediately after an accident.

Eyesight can be lost in a matter of seconds, so you must always be within arm's reach of water or some other non-toxic fluid.

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Carry a 6- to 8-ounce squirt bottle of water in your shirt pocket to use until you can reach a larger water supply.
  • Always keep a five-gallon supply with your tractor or truck.
  • Make sure there's a five-gallon water tank attached to the ammonia nurse tank, which is required by state law. Make sure the supply is fresh.
  • Remember that you can use other non-toxic, non-caustic fluids, such as cold coffee or juice, for first aid. Be aware of nearby sources of water, such as farm ponds or streams.
  • Continue rinsing the exposed area until the injured person gets medical attention. Explain the source of the burn to health professionals.

This news release was distributed by Iowa State University Extension as part of the Safe Farm Program. Safe Farm promotes health and safety in agriculture. It is funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Iowa State University, and a network of groups that serve Iowa farm workers and their families. Distribution date: April 1993.

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More