The respiratory system of living things, especially that of human beings, is one of the most important yet very delicate parts of the body system. The system which includes the nose, trachea, larynx and lungs is at very high risk of being attacked by some external substances that are widely referred to as respiratory irritants. The irritants which are also known as respiratory sensitizers refers to any type of substance either organic or inorganic that can cause allergic reactions. Some of the common respiratory irritants include chemicals like ammonia which may result in headache, rapid pulse and burns of the nasal cavities (Beach, 2018). Its ranked 3rd most plentifully produced poisonous chemical worldwide. This paper focuses on Ammonia as one of the most common respiratory irritant substance.
Ammonia is one of the most significant ingredients in the agricultural sector as it is used in the production of fertilizers like urea and Calcium Ammonium Nitrate. However, the application of these compounds exposes human beings to serious health hazards. A smaller amount of Ammonia also escapes from power stations which rely on Nitrogen Oxide as a raw material into the atmosphere. In the atmosphere, it can easily come into contact with human beings (The Essential Chemical Industry, 2016). Commercially, Ammonia is produced by a process called The Haber process, which involves the reaction between one mole of Nitrogen and three moles of Hydrogen gas to yield two moles of Ammonia (NH3). A special substance known as a catalyst is used to enhance the reaction of these two gases. Nickel catalyst is used in this process. Other special conditions required for the Haber process are a temperature ranging between 600 to 700k and pressure of about 100 to 200 bars. The catalyst lowers the temperature to about 50 atmospheres, hence, making it economical (The Essential Chemical Industry-Online, 2016).
The Ammonia gas produced for agricultural and other industrial uses usually finds its way into the body of human beings when proper preventive measures are not put in place. Farmers, industrial workers and other people who are frequently in contact with ammonia-substances like dye and glass paints are at very high risk of being exposed to health hazards caused by the compound. Other products like die and glass cleaners are made from Ammonia, and therefore, increase the probability of exposing one to the risk of inhaling the substance. Fortunately, the exposure to ammonia can be prevented especially by using protective clothing and equipment (Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, 2017). These are special equipment which includes gloves, eyeglasses and masks that protect the body from getting in contact with hazardous Ammonia.
Summary of Research Article on Respiratory Effects of Ammonia
The report indicates that close to 12 million tons of fertilizer made from Ammonia was used for farming. The result of this was a chronic incidence of pulmonary infection. The report by Waheed and Fuller pinpoints an 80-year-old farmer who unknowingly contacted anhydrous ammonia which was originating from a fertilizer tank that was under very high pressure. The old man had not observed the personal protective measures at the time of occurrence of the incidence. Therefore, he ended up inhaling the pressurized ammonia. This situation resulted in serious damage to his bronchial cavity and the entire respiratory tract. As an attempt to rescue the farmer, he was taken to an ICU at the University Medical Center located in Lubbock, TX. He was subjected to mechanical ventilation of the respiratory system and bronchoscopy using empiric antibiotics and corticosteroids. After a series of ups and downs accompanied by family wrangles, the man was finally extubated (Waheed and Fuller, 2017).
- Beach, C.B. (2018). Chemical pneumonia. Retrieved from https://www.emedicinehealth.com/chemical_pneumonia/article_em.htm
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (20170. Anhydrous ammonia. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthcomm_GoBack_GoBackunication/toolstemplates/entertainmented/tips/AnhydrousAmmonia.html.
- The Essential Chemical Industry-Online. (2016). Ammonia. Retrieved from http://essentialchemicalindustry.org/chemicals/ammonia.html
- Waheed, I., & Fuller, A. (2017). Anhydrous ammonia pulmonary toxicity: A significant farming hazard. Retrieved from http://pulmonarychronicles.com/index.php/pulmonarychronicles/article/view/397/864