Ammonium Chloride (chemical formula: NH4CI) is an inorganic compound (contains no carbon) that is soluble in water. It is produced when hydrochloric acid and ammonia are combined and is crystal-like when formed, although it is available in liquid form.
Ammonium chloride is used in the manufacturing of many household products, most notably fertilisers (they contain 90% of the world’s ammonium chloride supply) but they are also an ingredient in batteries, washing powder and cold medicine.
Depending on the different forms that ammonium chloride can come in; liquid or powder – the routes of exposure can vary. They include skin and eye contact, ingestion and inhalation.
As always, the severity of symptoms depend on the level and type of exposure that occurs.
Inhaling ammonium chloride fumes can lead to irritation in the nose, throat and lungs, including coughing and the feeling of a sore throat. People who already have a compromised respiratory function such as those with emphysema, could see their condition worsen.
Whilst ammonium chloride is edible and does have its place in food applications, these concentrations are safe for consumption. Ingesting ammonium chloride in an uncontrolled setting however, could lead to serious health consequences including death.
Chronic exposure to ammonium chloride is not believed to have major health effects but should be minimised as a precaution. Long term exposure to high concentrations of the chemical in dust form may affect how your lungs function – a major symptom being breathlessness.
If you swallow ammonium chloride, contact a medical professional immediately. If you are more than 15 minutes away from a hospital, you should induce vomiting unless otherwise instructed.
In the event of exposure to skin; remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories and cleanse the affected area with plenty of soap and water. Contaminated clothing must be washed prior to wearing again. Contact a doctor if symptoms persist.
If eye exposure occurs, remove any contact lenses and flush the eye with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes. Contact a medical professional immediately.
If a person has inhaled ammonium chloride, remove them from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source. Other measures aren’t normally necessary, but if in doubt; contact the poisons information centre.
Emergency eyewash fountains and safety showers should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical and there should always be adequate ventilation.
PPE including; safety glasses, protective clothing, gloves and masks are always essential when dealing with ammonium chloride.
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