What is ammonia used for?
About 90 percent of ammonia produced is used in fertilizer, to help sustain food production for billions of people around the world. Ammonia has other important uses; for example in household cleaning products and in manufacturing other products.
What is ammonia?
Ammonia, also known as NH3, is a colorless gas with a distinct odor composed of nitrogen and hydrogen atoms. It is produced naturally in the human body and in nature—in water, soil and air, even in tiny bacteria molecules. In human health, ammonia and the ammonium ion are vital components of metabolic processes.
What happens to ammonia in the environment?
Ammonia occurs naturally and is found throughout the environment in soil, air, and water. Ammonia also is renewed naturally as part of the nitrogen cycle that already occurs as plants fertilize. As a result of this natural process, ammonia does not last long in the environment, and it also does not bioaccumulate.
What does ammonia smell like?
Ammonia has a very distinct, pungent odor, described as similar to sweat or cat urine. Strong, briny cheeses like brie can also smell like ammonia. Cheeses even have small amounts of ammonia in them, as a natural by-product of the cheese aging process.
How might I be exposed to ammonia?
Ammonia occurs naturally in the environment, so everyone is exposed to low levels at one point or another. It is possible for a person to be exposed to higher levels of ammonia when using cleaning products containing ammonia, or if they live on or near farms where fertilizers are used. It’s also possible to be exposed to higher levels of ammonia if a person spends time in an enclosed building that contains lots of animals.
How can ammonia exposure affect my health?
No health effects have been found in humans exposed to typical amounts of ammonia that exist in the environment. Exposure to high levels of ammonia in air may be irritating to a person’s skin, eyes, throat, and lungs and cause coughing and burns.
For poisoning emergencies or questions about possible exposure to ammonia, call the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.