What is Ammonia and What Effect Does it Have on My Health & the Environment?

Keeping our homes and surroundings clean is extremely important to protect our health. However, the cleaning products we use in our homes and around our families often contain harsh chemicals. One such commonly used chemical is ammonia, which can be harmful to our health and our planet. 

We’ll give you the facts on ammonia here and explain why we keep ammonia off our ingredient list. 

What Is Ammonia? 

In its natural state, ammonia (NH3) is a colorless, highly irritating gas with a pungent, suffocating odor. It occurs naturally in humans and the environment. Inside the human body, the deamination of amino acids produces ammonia. In nature, ammonia is naturally produced by the action of bacteria on organic matter, such as plants, animals, and animal wastes. However, ammonia can also be produced by artificial means. In the United States, ammonia is one of the most commonly produced chemicals. Ammonia is most commonly produced to be used in the manufacture of plastics, explosives, fabrics, fertilizers, pesticides, dyes, industrial and household cleaning solutions, and other chemicals. 

In cleaning products, ammonia is often used in the form of ammonia hydroxide, a fast-drying chemical especially common in glass and floor cleaners. Ammonia hydroxide is gaseous ammonia dissolved in water. Household cleaners containing ammonia typically contain 5-10% ammonia, whereas industrial cleaning products can contain up to 25% ammonia. Though ammonia is found in a lot of traditional cleaning products, it does have some serious health risks associated with it.

How Can Ammonia Impact My Health?

It’s very easy to come into contact with ammonia when you’re using it to clean. If you touch your eyes or skin when cleaning, spill the product, or inhale it in a closed room, you’re at risk for irritations. Once inhaled, ammonia immediately interacts with moisture in the mucus to form caustic ammonium hydroxide, a very corrosive chemical that damages cells in the body on contact. As a result, inhalation of ammonia vapors may cause irritation of the eyes, nose, skin, throat, and respiratory tract. 

Low concentrations of ammonia can aggravate the respiratory condition of asthma patients and trigger asthma attacks. If ammonia is ingested, it can cause more serious harm. Swallowing ammonia can cause burns inside the mouth and throat. Exposure to high concentrations of ammonia can cause burns, as well as bronchial and alveolar edema, so when you are cleaning with ammonia you have to be especially careful. Excessive exposure to ammonia may also lead to liver and kidney damage.

If you choose to use ammonia to clean, always keep the area well-ventilated to reduce the risk of you inhaling concentrated amounts of the chemical. You should also be careful to avoid touching your skin, eyes, and mouth while you are cleaning, so that you don’t further irritate your eyes or accidentally ingest some of the chemical. Most ammonia-based cleaning products will include safety warnings and precautions (such as wearing protective gloves, a mask, and eye protection while using the product). Always follow the label instructions on the product you’re using. 

The most important safety rule to remember is: Never mix ammonia with other chemicals, especially chlorine bleach. The result is a highly toxic chlorine gas that can produce headaches, seizures, and other symptoms. It’s crucial to keep this in mind if using ammonia with laundry or to clean surfaces, making sure not to mix it with a detergent or household cleaner that contains bleach.

In Case of Ammonia Poisoning: 

  • Call Poison Control: 1 (800) 222-1222
  • If you get ammonia on your skin or in your eyes, flush the area with running water for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  • If you accidentally swallow ammonia, drink milk or water immediately, unless you experience vomiting or convulsions.
  • If you inhale ammonia, seek fresh air immediately.
  • If you get ammonia on your clothes, take off your clothing without rubbing into the skin, and wash immediately separately from the rest of your clothes.

Environmental Impacts of Ammonia 

Ammonia doesn’t just cause negative effects to human health – it can also be extremely toxic to our environment. When ammonia-based cleaners are washed down the drain as a part of the cleaning process, the waste treatment facilities are unable to remove ammonia before returning the water to rivers, lakes, and other waterways. This leads to the accumulation of ammonia in treated waters, which is extremely toxic to aquatic life. When ammonia is present in water at high enough levels, it’s difficult for aquatic organisms to sufficiently excrete the toxicant, leading to toxic buildup in internal tissues and blood, and potentially death. If you choose to use ammonia, always avoid washing it down the drain whenever possible. 

In addition, air contamination due to ammonia released from industries and homes can pollute our air and harm vegetation.

Vital Oxide: The Ammonia-Free Alternative 

Ammonia can cause harm to our health and our planet. At Vital Oxide, we believe that cleaning shouldn’t be a hazard. Our product, Vital Oxide, is free from ammonia as well as other harsh chemicals like chlorine bleach. It’s also free from alarming safety warnings and precautions. You don’t need to wear a mask, gloves, or any other personal protection equipment while applying it for general use. And when it comes to the environment, Vital Oxide is a planet-friendly choice. Vital Oxide’s hero ingredient, chlorine dioxide, breaks down into simple salt after use. 

Vital Oxide is an incredibly versatile solution and can replace most (if not all!) of the cleaning products under your kitchen sink – including the ammonia-based cleaners. Use Vital Oxide to clean your floors, make your windows shine without streaks, and more. 

Learn more about the science behind our product, as well as tons of great tips on cleaning, disinfecting, and more. If you have any questions, please Contact Us or Send Us a Message on Facebook. We’re here to help.
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