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Ammonia Commercial Refrigeration – Leak Risks And Detection

Some commercial refrigeration units use ammonia to maintain the cool temperatures. Although effective, the ammonia can put those who work in the general vicinity at risk of ammonia exposure. So, what are the risks associated with ammonia exposure, how do you detect ammonia leaks, and what do you do when you are exposed? Below, you will find the answers to all three of these questions.

What are the risks associated with ammonia exposure?

Ammonia is a corrosive chemical that will damage the lungs, eyes, and skin during exposure. Limited exposure will not cause much more than discomfort, but prolonged exposure could cause chemical imbalances in your body and cause damage to your lungs.

What is the treatment for exposure?

If you have experienced prolonged exposure, seek medical treatment at your local emergency department. There, the doctor will examine your eyes, nose, and throat, order a chest x-ray, perform pulmonary function tests and run a blood panel.

If the exposure was limited, simply getting outside into the fresh air, flushing your eyes and washing all exposed skin is all that will be needed to find relief.

How do you test for ammonia leaks?

The refrigeration unit is likely equipped with a leak detection and alarm system that will alert everyone in the surrounding area of the ammonia leak. Unfortunately, sometimes these systems fail to work. In the event that you smell ammonia or are experiencing burning eyes, nose or throat, it is time to take action.

Put on a quality respirator, rubber gloves, and safety goggles and cover all exposed skin before beginning to test for ammonia leaks. There are two methods to test for ammonia leaks – litmus paper tests and sulfur stick tests. These emergency test supplies should be kept in several areas around the building.

Litmus paper test – A small strip of paper that is dampened with water and carried throughout the building to test for the presence of ammonia. When the strip comes into contact with ammonia gasses, it will turn red.

Sulfur stick test – A stick with a wick that you light and carry throughout the building. When the stick produces white smoke, it is in contact with ammonia.

When performing either of these tests, mark the area where the tests have shown positive results, exit the building immediately and contact the company in charge or maintaining the commercial refrigeration unit.

Be sure that everyone working in the building is aware of the potential dangers of working around the ammonia and know what to do in the event of an ammonia leak.

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