People are exposed to all sorts of toxins and chemicals on a daily basis, some of them are quite harmless, and others can wreak havoc through the human body. Ammonia is one of the chemicals which are considered to be harmless in small doses, but highly poisonous and dangerous in concentrated or large amounts. Some ammonia occurs naturally, during decomposition of organic matter. Ammonia though is also manufactured industrially, in order to produce fertilisers, synthetic fibres, plastics, explosives etc.
Ammonia is also one of the key ingredients in many cleaning products. Cleaning manufacturers frequently put ammonia in their products as indeed this chemical betters their cleaning properties. A problem with ammonia is that it becomes highly toxic when mixed with chlorine bleach – a case with most heavy duty cleaning products. On the same note, many cleaning product companies will not indicate the presence of ammonia, or the exact amount of ammonia present in the product as the formula itself is considered to be a trade secret.
In large amounts, ammonia is bad for both the human body and the environment. The chemical irritates and damages mucous membranes of the body, plus it causes instant, extensive poisoning when swallowed. Ammonia fumes react with nitrates found naturally in the environment, forming toxic ammonium nitrate particles which tend to linger to fabrics, especially interior ones.
In the average household, mostly children are at risk of being affected by ammonia, especially children suffering from respiratory or skin conditions. Adequate aeration of the premises should alleviate some of the risks after indoor cleaning sessions. Ammonia in cleaning products cannot be avoided, but its use can be limited. When choosing cleaning products or cleaning systems, keep in mind that ammonia will be present, though likely unlisted.
The cleaning products which are likely to contain the most ammonia are glass and window cleaners, metal and oven cleaners and wax removers. It is advisable to use ecofriendly alternatives of these solvents, although they do cost more. Alternatively, you can search for cleaning product brands which do list the exact amount of ammonia and chlorine in their product formulas. Usually, household ammonia contains between five and ten percent of actual ammonia diluted in water. This might not seem like much, but it is plenty enough to cause severe respiratory irritation.
Having said all this, you can learn to detect ammonia, this shouldn’t be a problem at all as most people are quite familiar with that sharp, irritating odour which cannot be mistaken or missed. Ammonia is even more easily detected (as in fumes) when mixed with chlorine. The result is chloramine gas – a highly toxic gas, causing almost instant lung damage through excessive exposure.
Being able to detect ammonia using your nose will help you choose better cleaning products for the home and office, plus you will be able to tell when a room or other indoor space needs proper aeration. Detecting cleaning chemical residue around you will help you stay healthier and limit the exposure of growing children to harsh chemicals.