Ammonia Exposure and Burns

Ammonia, while not extremely dangerous in normal household quantities, can be an extremely dangerous gas or liquid when the concentration of the chemical is high enough. In gas form, it can do extensive damage to a person’s internal organs. In liquid form, it can hurt a person’s skin or eyes. People are typically injured due to ammonia exposure through inhalation, skin or eye contact, and ingestion.


Inhalation injuries generally occur when a highly concentrated form of ammonia is released into the air. It is particularly harmful if there is humidity or another form of moisture in the air because this causes the ammonia to join with the water vapor and become more dense than the air. This makes ammonia more dangerous as it results in the vapor sticking close to the ground where it can actually hurt people. In most instances, ammonia is less dense than the air and so dissipates rapidly into the atmosphere.

When people inhale ammonia, there is an immediate burning of the nose, throat, and respiratory tract. This results in bronchiolar and alveolar edema. In addition, airway destruction resulting in respiratory distress or failure is common.

Skin or Eye Contact

If a person comes into contact with very strong ammonia, he or she can be severely injured or burned. Contact with concentrated ammonia solutions such as industrial strength cleaners may cause corrosive injuries like skin burns, permanent eye damage, or blindness.


When eaten, highly concentrated ammonia results in corrosive damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach. Typically, it does not result in systemic poisoning.

Overall, there is not an antidote for ammonia poisoning but the effects can be treated and most people do recover.