Is breathing ammonia dangerous?

Breathing in ammonia is no joke. You may have heard that this pungent gas can be harmful, but the question remains: Is breathing ammonia dangerous?

Let’s explore what happens when you inhale ammonia and see if we can answer that burning question.

What is Ammonia?

Before diving into its dangers or benefits of inhaling it, let’s first establish precisely what ammonia is.

Ammonia is a colorless gas with a strong odor made up of nitrogen and hydrogen. It naturally occurs in soil, air, water bodies and many household cleaning agents like bleach and window cleaner.

It’s also produced by animals (including humans), as an ordinary component of urine! Yikes!

To better understand whether breathing this seemingly innocent compound can harm us or otherwise – bear witness to the next paragraph

How Does Inhaling Ammonia Affect Our Body?

The consequences of inhaling too much airborne NH3 vary depending on several factors such as :

  • The concentration present
  • Duration/time
  • Threshold value/Quantity limit
  • Frequency/Repeatedness

Here are some key ways that breathing in too much ammonia gas can affect your body:

1. Irritation & toxicity

Ammonia has acrid properties –that sting; hence it causes irritation to almost all tissues throughout our respiratory system right from your nose down to your bronchioles inside the lung wall where coughing becomes inevitable (not recommended for smokers) . In extreme cases and exposure concentrations over permissible threshold values –diffuse thinner areas within small air sacs called alveoli get damaged affecting oxygen flow leading to pneumonia which could lead upto hospital admission.

2.Liver injury

Aside from irritating our respiratory system, high levels of ammonium inhalation also damages major organs such as liver.

Yes! You heard right!

A study made by Dokuz Eylul University in Turkey noticed that : “Inhaling ammonia can cause significant alterations- evident by raised ALT and AST liver enzyme levels which play a key role in the enzymatic metabolism of proteins. These parameters must be taken into account when evaluating and diagnosing those exposed to NH3 on site.”

3.Red blood cells damage

Ammonia is absorbed into the bloodstream through our lungs after inhalation, which means it can come into contact with red blood cells(RBC) as they go through their oxygen-carrying duties throughout your body!

This causes behavioral issues or cerebral depression resulting from electrochemical abnormalities within the central nervous system’s cells- induced by abnormal calcium uptake.

Breathing in ammonia gas also destroys RBCs leading to conditions like anemia, thrombocytopenia or reactive erythroid hyperplasia – less RBC count than needed.

So , should you inhale Ammonia occasionally? Or ask for authorization before doing so?

The Dos & Don’ts of Inhaling Ammonia

Here are some helpful tips to ensure you don’t breathe too much ammonia:

  1. DO NOT directly inhale straight industrial grade ammonium hydroxide (often used as a cleaning agent)
  2. DO NOT use it as a form of instant energy booster during high-intensity sports!
  3. If you work around chemicals such as this, exercise caution and always wear proper PPE(Personal Protective Equipment).
  4. Should incase ammonia gets anywhere else apart from its designated location or starts farting down your throat due to any course: leave Immediately! go outside where there’s clean air then try contacting poison control center if symptoms persist.
    5 . And most importantly: do not let ANY household product containing bleach get mixed up with another chemical because chances are that could create an unexpected release-like reaction that often involves harmful gases including but not limited to ammonia

How Much Ammonia Is Too Much?

As with many harmful substances, it’s the dose that makes the poison.

Various organizations like OSHA have established permissible exposure limits (PELs) for short term and long/continued inhalation of ammonium.

The Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) by ACGIH suggest ; an 8-hour Time Weighted Average of total ammonia concentration in breathed air should be less than or equal to 25 ppm( parts per million). Anything above this value could lead to irritation on mild cases while extreme situations might prove fatal.

Below is a breakdown chart reflecting quickly accepted threshold values ;

Concentration Exposure time Effect
<<less than 5 PPM several hours Not irritating or dangerous
10 ppm Some people can sense smell \& irritations within one shift


Threshold limit amounting from >10ppm heralds onset of ill effects including nose/throat irritations, breathing problems similar those often experienced during cold seasons,

At higher concentrations you increase risk of lung tissue damage and respiratory distress,and even death.

So how bad could inhaling too much ammonia get? And do we know any groups more predisposed?

Who’s More At Risk For Breathing In Ammonia Gas

Surprisingly ladies & gentle men; Haber’s Law allows us to predict- based on various factors such as age distribution, volume room temperature where experiments were carried out :

–that children under six years old are at greater risk due clearly developed lungs not being strong enough yet putting them at crucial precipice when they breathe toxic gases like ammonia.

This Law also predicts smokers and patients with respiratory ailments like asthma, chronic bronchitis or pulmonary artery occlusion are instinctively more likely to experience symptoms than their healthier counterparts.

Note: Ingesting ammonium in say its salt form is fine as long as the dose does not become lethal 🙂


So there you have it folks! Is breathing in ammonia dangerous? Well, yes! We hope we’ve educated you about the potential harms of inhaling this gas, and how excessive inhalation could cause severe health consequences if left untreated.


  • Avoid contact with direct fittings.

  • Wear a respirator mask \& protective body gear when around volatile products containing NH3!

Now go forth & breathe safely

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