Fertilizer Sector reforms – NBS, bio-fertilizers, Neem coating, etc.

How dangerous is Ammonia?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ammoni compounds and its uses

Mains level : Not Much

Two persons died and several took ill in a major ammonia gas leakage at a fertilizers unit at Prayagraj.

Try this PYQ:

Q. With reference to chemical fertilizers in India, consider the following statements:

  1. At present, the retail price of chemical fertilizers is market-driven and not administered by the Government.
  2. Ammonia, which is an input of urea, is produced from natural gas.
  3. Sulphur, which is a raw material for phosphoric acid fertilizer, is a by-product of all oil refineries.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 2 only

(d) 1,2 and 3


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

Why is it harmful?

  • According to experts in Chemistry, ammonia is stored for industrial use in liquid form under high pressure or in gaseous form at low temperature.
  • In such cases, the cause of death is always suffocation as in the case of Prayagraj incident, the victims must have been very close to the point of a gas leak.

Effects on the human body

  • Ammonia, even in moderate concentration, can cause irritation to eyes, skin, nose and throat.
  • It interacts immediately upon contact with moisture present in the skin, eyes, oral cavity, and respiratory tract to form ammonium hydroxide.
  • It is very caustic and disrupts the cell membrane lipids, ultimately leading to cellular destruction.
  • As cell proteins break down, water is extracted, resulting in an inflammatory response that causes further damage.

Secretion in humans

  • Ammonia, which is highly soluble in water, is found in soil, air, and water; it is naturally present in the body.
  • It is secreted by the kidneys to neutralize excess acid.
  • However, it is highly diluted when in the environment and does not affect the human body to a noticeable level.
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