The Serious Hazards of Ammonia Exposure for Maritime Workers
Many fishing vessels have large refrigeration units to store their harvests while they are at sea. Similarly, port facilities also maintain huge refrigerators or freezers. These refrigeration systems use ammonia as a coolant, a substance that can be deadly when leaks occur.
Injuries Caused by Ammonia Exposure
Leaking refrigeration units can cause serious injuries to a crew, including:
- Ocular injuries. Ammonia can penetrate and damage the eyes more easily than any other alkali. Even low concentrations of airborne ammonia can quickly produce eye irritation. Higher amounts can cause swelling and sloughing of the surface cells of the eye. This may lead to ulceration and perforation of the cornea, causing temporary or permanent blindness.
- Respiratory injuries. Low concentrations of ammonia can irritate the respiratory tract, causing upper airway swelling and narrowing of the throat and bronchi. Larger amounts may lead to coughing, difficulty breathing, and upper airway obstruction. Ammonia inhalation can also cause nasopharyngeal and tracheal burns, bronchiolar and alveolar edema, and destruction of the airway. Asphyxiation may occur in poorly ventilated or enclosed areas.
- Lung damage. Inhalation of ammonia may lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs, industrial asthma, or other serious pulmonary conditions. Exposure to very high concentrations can cause lung damage and death, while workers who survive a severe inhalation injury may experience residual chronic lung disease.
- Skin injuries. Exposure to ammonia vapors can cause pain, inflammation, blisters, and chemical burns on exposed skin. Contact with compressed liquid ammonia is dangerous because it can freeze flesh, leading to frostbite injuries. Ammonia gas or solution may also cause severe corrosive burns with deep ulcerations on contact. These injuries are sometimes severe enough to require amputation.
Compensation for Ammonia Exposure Injuries
If you’ve been injured by ammonia exposure while performing maritime work on land or at sea, you should immediately contact an attorney. Only a skilled maritime lawyer can help you receive the compensation you deserve. To discuss your claim, contact the law offices of Steve M. Lee, P.C., by using the form on this page.