Anhydrous ammonia pulmonary toxicity: A significant farming hazard

  • Irfan Waheed The Department of Internal medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, TX.
  • Audra Fuller The Department of Internal medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, TX.


Anhydrous ammonia is a toxic gas widely used as a fertilizer. In 2016 about 12 million
tons of ammonia were used in the production of fertilizers. We are reporting a case of severe
pulmonary toxicity from anhydrous ammonia fertilizer exposure. An 80-year-old male farmer
was accidentally exposed to anhydrous ammonia released from a pressurized fertilizer tank.
He was intubated due to upper airway inhalation injury. Bronchoscopy showed extensive
lower airway mucosal damage. The sloughed bronchial mucosa was removed from obstructed
bronchi using a cryoprobe. He developed acute respiratory distress managed with lung
protective mechanical ventilation. He did not improve and tracheostomy was recommended.
The patient’s family opted for comfort care only. Anhydrous ammonia can cause pulmonary
toxicity. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can be fatal at doses greater than 5,000
parts per million. Early inspection of the upper respiratory tract and securing an airway are
lifesaving. Management is supportive with oxygen and mechanical ventilation. Education, the
use of protective gear, and proper equipment handling are key steps in the prevention of
accidental toxicity.


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How to Cite
Waheed, I., & Fuller, A. (2017). Anhydrous ammonia pulmonary toxicity: A significant farming hazard. The Southwest Respiratory and Critical Care Chronicles, 5(19), 41-44.