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Gas Detection: Understanding Ammonia Gas

By treenadmin, 03/08/2018 - 10:40

Gas Detection: Understanding Ammonia Gas

Ammonia (Nh3) made headlines with the infamous gas leak that claimed 3 lives in Fernie, BC in October 2017. Ammonia leaks occur more often than we know, but only the cases that result in serious casualties are often reported in the news. However, with this incident, organizations are realizing the importance of gas detection devices. Although implementing the correct gas detection devices is a crucial step, understanding Ammonia and its properties is as important. This blog highlights the properties of Ammonia, health risks and proper tools needed to detect Ammonia.
 
What is Ammonia Gas?
Ammonia is a corrosive, toxic gas with a very pungent odor. In the environment, ammonia is part of the nitrogen cycle and is produced in soil from bacterial processes. It is also produced naturally from decomposition of organic matter including plants, animals and animal wastes. It is slightly lighter than air and it can mix with water vapor and become heavier than air, collecting in pockets at floor level. It is not normally flammable, but at extremely high concentrations it can create an explosive mixture with air.
 
Where is Ammonia Gas Found?
Ammonia is commonly used in mechanical refrigeration systems, including those found in ice rinks. It is also used for purification of water supplies, manufacture of plastics, explosives, textiles, pesticides, dyes and other chemicals and many household and industrial-strength cleaning solutions. It is used in liquid form in these systems, however, it becomes a gas once its release into the ambient air. This may happen through leaks in the system or a system failure that allows ammonia gas to be released into the atmosphere. Proper maintenance can prevent this from happening.
 
Some chemical/physical properties of ammonia are:
 At room temperature, ammonia is a colorless, highly irritating gas with a pungent, suffocating odor.
 In pure form, it is known as anhydrous ammonia and is hygroscopic (readily absorbs moisture).
 Ammonia has alkaline properties and is corrosive.
 Ammonia gas dissolves easily in water to form ammonium hydroxide, a caustic solution and weak base.
 Ammonia gas is easily compressed and forms a clear liquid under pressure.
 Ammonia is usually shipped as a compressed liquid in steel containers.
 Ammonia is not highly flammable, but containers of ammonia may explode when exposed to high heat.
 
Health Risks
Ammonia is considered a high health hazard because it a severe irritant of the eyes, nose and throat, where airborne concentrations between 25 and 50 ppm may be irritating to the mucous membranes. Exposures in excess of the allowable limit (25ppm) can cause headaches, coughing and difficulty breathing. Prolonged exposure to high concentration of ammonia (300ppm+) can lead to pulmonary edema (an accumulation of fluid in the lungs) which can be fatal. Skin contact with liquid ammonia can cause burns, blisters and even frostbite. Eye contact can cause severe damage to the eye and may lead to blindness. If the possibility of exposure above 300 ppm exists, use a MSHA/NIOSH approved self-
contained breathing apparatus with a full face piece operated in a pressure-demand or other positive-pressure mode.
 
Detecting Ammonia
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GAXT-A-DL
BW gas provides a wide selection of portable gas monitors that could be useful in detecting gas leaks. One of the leading product is GASXT-A-DL. Designed with durability and comfort in mind, the GasAlert Extreme reliably monitors for any single gas hazard within its wide range of available toxic gas models. It measures ammonia over a range of 0-100ppm. With easy on/off operation, this single gas detector offers extended longevity with a field-replaceable battery and sensor. Calibration is a simple automatic procedure and is compatible with BW’s MicroDock II automatic test and calibration system. A wide range of user options, multilanguage display and data logging functionality make the GasAlert Extreme an ideal solution for many applications.
 
GAXT-A2-DL
GAXT-A2-DL is a Single-gas detector, designed for surveying levels of ammonia (NH3) in natural and industrial environments, and in other personal safety, training, research, and ambient air monitoring applications. The Electrochemical cell sensor measures ammonia over a range of 0 to 400 ppm for more precise measurements in high-ammonia environments than detectors with a lower measuring range. The audio, visual, and vibration alarms alert simultaneously when ammonia gas reaches preset TWA, STEL, low, or high levels. LCD screen shows self-test status, alarm set-points, maximum exposure, gas type, alarm level (TWA, STEL, low, or high), and battery life remaining. Back-mounted alligator clip allows wearing the unit on a belt, and a concussion-resistant boot helps protect against damage
 
Treen Safety’s focus is to provide solutions regarding worker protection against the hazards in any given industry. If you are interested in learning more about GAXT-A-DL or GAXT-A2-DL or to place an order, please contact our safety consultants at Treen Safety at (604) -253- 4588 (Lower Mainland) or (250)-632-4634 (Kitimat).
 
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