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Ammonia exposure and hazard assessment for selected household cleaning product uses


There is scant information pertaining to airborne ammonia exposures from either spills or common household uses of ammonia-containing floor and tile cleaners or from spray-on glass cleaners. We assessed instantaneous and event-specific time-weighted average (TWA) exposures to airborne ammonia during spills and use (per label directions) of a household floor and tile cleaner and two spray-on window cleaners. Airborne ammonia levels measured at breathing zone height (BZH) above the spilled floor and tile cleaner product reached 500 p.p.m. within 5 min, while levels for spilled window cleaner were below 8 p.p.m. TWA exposures were assessed while tile walls and floors were cleaned in three different bathrooms of a residence, and during use of a spray-on glass cleaner while washing several large windows in an office setting. NIOSH Method 6015 was utilized with concurrent field measurements every 60 s using a Drager PAC III monitor with an electrochemical cell detector. Peak ammonia levels ranged from 16 to 28 p.p.m. and short-term TWA concentrations ranged from 9.4 to 13 p.p.m. during mixing (0.1% ammonia) and cleaning tiles in the three bathrooms. Ammonia exposures while using spray-on window cleaner were over 10-fold lower (TWA=0.65 p.p.m.). Use of the floor and tile cleaner mixed at 0.2% ammonia led to peak airborne ammonia levels within 3–5 min at 36–90 p.p.m., and use of full strength cleaner (3% ammonia) led to peak ammonia levels of 125 to >200 p.p.m. within 2–3 min. Spillage or intentional use of the full strength floor and tile cleaner led to airborne ammonia concentrations that exceed occupational short-term exposure limits, while spillage or use of the spray-on window cleaner did not approach potentially hazardous airborne ammonia levels and likely represents a minimal inhalation health hazard. We conclude that routine household uses of ammonia are unlikely to produce significant exposures when using standard cleaning solutions (0.1–0.2%), but spillage or use of concentrated ammonia solutions (e.g., 3%) in poorly ventilated areas can lead to potentially hazardous airborne ammonia exposures.

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Special thanks to Roxanne Agredano and Richard Richter for their valuable assistance. The measurement studies were funded by the legal counsel for an industrial defendant to characterize common consumer exposures to ammonia. Neither of the products tested was at issue in the litigation and no funding was received from cleaner product manufacturers. The individual authors funded the literature review and creation of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Brent D Kerger.

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Fedoruk, M., Bronstein, R. & Kerger, B. Ammonia exposure and hazard assessment for selected household cleaning product uses. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 15, 534–544 (2005).

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  • household
  • cleaners
  • ammonia
  • exposure
  • airborne
  • inhalation

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