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Current Affairs

IFFCO gas leak

Date: 26 December 2020 Tags:

Issue

Two persons died and several took ill in a major ammonia gas leakage at the Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) unit at Prayagraj.

 

Background

The victims had come in contact with the concentrated form of ammonia gas that leaked heavily from the plant.

Details

  • A tri-hydroid of nitrogen (NH3), ammonia is a building block for ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) that is used in agriculture as a high-nitrogen fertiliser.

  • Ammonia is stored for industrial use in liquid form under high pressure or in gaseous form at low temperature, as was the case in the IFFCO unit where the accident took place.

  • Ammonia interacts immediately upon contact with moisture present in the skin, eyes, oral cavity and respiratory tract to form ammonium hydroxide, which is very caustic and disrupts the cell membrane lipids, ultimately leading to cellular destruction.

  • Ammonia is highly soluble in water, is found in soil, air, and water.  It is naturally present in the body and secreted by the kidneys to neutralise excess acid.

  • Ammonia is critical in the manufacturing of fertilizers, and is one of the largest-volume synthetic chemicals produced in the world.

  • More than 80 per cent of ammonia made is consumed in the manufacturing of fertilizer, and most of the remainder goes into the production of formaldehyde.

Health effects of ammonia

  • Inhaling ammonia gas is toxic and affects the lungs with a possibility of causing chemical pneumonitis, which is inflammation of the lung caused by aspirating or inhaling irritants.

  • Exposure to low concentrations of ammonia in air or solution may produce rapid skin or eye irritation. Higher concentrations of ammonia may cause severe injury and burns.

  • Contact with concentrated ammonia solutions such as industrial cleaners may cause corrosive injury including skin burns, permanent eye damage or blindness.