Anhydrous ammonia is little-known to the general public. It is most commonly used in farming, where it is widely used as a source of nitrogen fertilizer. It is, however, a very volatile and highly toxic substance, one that can blind, suffocate, burn, and even kill people.
You often can see anhydrous ammonia being transported in rural areas, usually in tankers or in tanks towed behind pickup trucks. It requires tanks because it needs to be kept under pressure. If any equipment used to transfer anhydrous ammonia fails, there can be a release of gas, which creates a dangerous and potentially deadly situation.
Anhydrous ammonia does not contain water, so when it comes in contact with bodily tissue that contains water — such as the eyes, throat, or lungs — it can burn and scar that tissue. The damage happens on contact, and only worsens. The tissues need to be flushed with water immediately to minimize the injury.
If the tissue is not flushed immediately, anhydrous ammonia can damage the lungs or skin severely. If the scarring of either of those organs is severe enough, death can occur.
Most states have regulations requiring that pickup trucks must tow anhydrous ammonia tanks at speeds slower than 25 mph. If a truck crashes and the tank ruptures, it can become dangerous to anyone in the vicinity.
If you are near a crash, you must get as far away as possible as quickly as possible. Pay attention to local health and safety officials, and wait for them to give the “all clear” before returning to the area.
Anhydrous ammonia also can be released during the transfer process. For example, in a case from 2017, a young man was filling a tank for a farmer when the farmer — thinking the young man had finished — pulled away while the hose was still coupled to the tank. As the farmer drove off, the coupling broke and sprayed anhydrous ammonia into the air. The young man became partially blind.
Can I sue for an anhydrous ammonia burn?
The answer is almost always yes. Typically when an anhydrous ammonia release occurs into the atmosphere, someone has been negligent.
Cases involving anhydrous ammonia injuries tend to be complex. The equipment used to store and transport the chemical is complex: Very specialized tanks, valve couplings and gauges are used. In anhydrous ammonia accidents, these complex pieces of equipment can fail. It’s important to obtain an attorney who understands that equipment.
First and foremost, you want an attorney who understands the specialized equipment involved in the handling and transport of anhydrous ammonia. Second, you want an attorney who understands the injuries – what an anhydrous ammonia burn entails, and its treatment and prognosis.
Where does anhydrous ammonia come from?
Anhydrous ammonia usually comes from farming operations where it is used as a fertilizer. You will see it being transported on the highways in tankers or being towed in smaller tanks behind pickup trucks. It is something that has to be kept under pressure, and that is where much of the danger comes in. If any equipment that is used to transfer anhydrous ammonia fails, there can be a release of anhydrous ammonia gas. That is where it becomes dangerous.
What type of lawyer works with anhydrous ammonia burns?
Typically, a lawyer who practices in personal injury, but you want someone who specializes in anhydrous ammonia accidents. First and foremost, you want a lawyer who understands the specialized equipment involved in the handling and transport of anhydrous ammonia. And then secondly, you want a lawyer who understands the injuries. You want a lawyer who really knows what an anhydrous ammonia burn is, what the treatment is, what the prognosis is, and how you prove those things in court.
What makes anhydrous ammonia dangerous?
Anhydrous ammonia by definition does not contain water, so when it comes in contact with any bodily tissue that contains water, especially things like eyes, or the throat, or the lungs, it is going to interact with those bodily tissues and essentially cause burning and scarring of those tissues. And this happens immediately, on contact, and it gets worse as time goes on. So those tissues need to be flushed with water as quickly as possible to minimize the burn injury.
Can you die from anhydrous ammonia?
Absolutely. Anhydrous ammonia can cause a very serious lung injury, and if the scarring to lungs is severe enough, death can occur. Also, anhydrous ammonia can cause severe burns to the skin, and if the burns are severe enough, unfortunately, death can ensue.
Is the transportation of anhydrous ammonia dangerous?
Yes, absolutely. Most states have regulations requiring that those tanks towed behind pickup trucks must be towed at speeds of less than 25 miles per hour. If a truck crashes and the tank ruptures, it can become a huge danger to anyone within the vicinity. The anhydrous ammonia becomes a gas. The gas attacks any of the bodily tissues that have water in them, which tend to be the eyes, the lungs, and the skin.
Can I sue for an anhydrous ammonia burn?
The answer is almost always yes. Typically when an anhydrous ammonia release occurs into the atmosphere, someone has been negligent. Someone has done something they should not have done. So these are cases that can be pursued. It is an event that simply should not happen, and one for which you will need an experienced lawyer.
How do these injuries happen?
During the transfer process. For example, there is a recent case involving a young man who was filling an anhydrous ammonia tanker car for a farmer. The farmer thought the filling process was complete and drove his rig away while the hose was still coupled to the tanker. As the tanker moved away, obviously the coupling broke and sprayed anhydrous ammonia into the air. The young man suffered very serious injuries to his eyes, in the form of partial blindness. So that is one way these kinds of accidents can happen.
What do I do if there is a release of anhydrous ammonia in my vicinity?
First and foremost, get as far away as possible. Then secondly, listen to what local health and safety officials are telling you about how long to stay away, how far to stay away, which direction to go in, etc. And then listen to them for when it is safe to return to your home.
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INDIANAPOLIS — Two people were treated after an anhydrous ammonia leak at Micronutrients, business on the southwest side of the city. Medics transported two employees to IU Health Methodist Hospital.
Anhydrous ammonia: Ammonia in its pure form that contains no water … a chemical formed by combining nitrogen with ammonia. It is often used in the making of methamphetamine. … Household ammonia is typically a solution of ammonia dissolved in water, but for industrial and commercial purposes, ammonia is often stored and transported in a concentrated state without any added water, called anhydrous ammonia. In this form, it can be used as a fertilizer, a refrigerant, or as an antimicrobial agent.
Negligence: 1a : the quality or state of being negligent; b : failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances.