ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




Ammonium hydroxide, aqua ammonia.
Clear, colourless liquid with strong pungent, intensely irritating odour.
Ammonia solution is incompatible with acids and oxidising agents - can be a violent reaction. Can form explosive compounds with silver salts. attacks copper, nickel, zinc and their alloys, rubber, and aluminium. Can react violently or form explosive compounds with halogens, mercury, organics in general and hypochlorites. Heating produces toxic fumes of nitrogen and flammable hydrogen.
This substance has a moderate fire and explosion hazard when exposed to flame in an enclosed space. It is a severe irritant and is corrosive. Acute exposure of the vapour to the eyes will cause irritation of the cornea and tearing. A liquid splash to the eye will cause severe burns, haemorrhage, swollen eyelids and partial or total blindness if not treated immediately. Skin contact may cause burns with localised irritation. Inhalation of the vapour causes severe irritation to the respiratory tract with convulsive coughing. Prolonged exposure may lead to permanent lung damage. Brief exposure to concentrations of 5,000 ppm have caused death. Ingestion will cause severe local burns and coughing, vomiting and shock.
Use a fume hood.
Avoid skin and eye contact.
Avoid inhalation of the vapour.
Avoid ingestion.
Keep away from heat or naked flames.
Wash hands thoroughly after handling.
Use a fume hood to keep the level of exposure below the recommended threshold limit, i.e. 25 ppm or 18 mg/m3 (NH & MRC). If the level of exposure is expected to exceed this limit then a respirator is recommended. Short term inhalation limit is 50 ppm for 5 minutes. Wear protective clothing. A long sleeved laboratory coat or gown, rubber gloves, safety goggles and a face mask as a minimum standard. If a splash is likely to occur then a full face shield should be used.
Skin ­ remove contaminated clothing and immediately wash the affected area with large amounts of water until all evidence of the chemical has been removed (approximately 15 minutes). If irritation persists or burns develop seek medical attention.
Eyes ­ immediately wash the affected eye with large amounts of water until all evidence of the chemical has been removed (approximately 15 minutes). Seek medical advice.
Inhalation ­ remove from the area of exposure to fresh air. If the patient has ceased breathing apply artificial respiration. Keep warm and allow to rest. Seek immediate medical advice.
Ingestion ­ wash out the mouth thoroughly with water and give water or milk to drink. DO NOT induce vomiting. Seek immediate medical advice.
Store in a cool, dry, well ventilated atmosphere away from heat, direct sunlight and incompatible substances.
Extinguish ignition sources. Wear rubber gloves, large face shield, all purpose or special canister respirator for ammonia and laboratory coat.
Dilute and neutralise with 6M hydrochloric acid, mop up into a large bucket. Discharge to sewer with a large excess of water.
PACKAGE LOTS: Pour into a large tank of water and neutralise. Discharge into sewer with a large excess of water.
Ammonia vapour is a pollutant and should be contained. Concentrated solutions are harmful to aquatic life.


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