The director of the Center for Environmental and Occupational Health at The University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., says major health concerns existed before and after the explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas.
An ammonia plant exploded in West, Texas, on April 17, killing several and injuring more than 100 people.
Dr. Bill Barkman, a pulmonologist, said the danger comes from anhydrous ammonia, which when breathed in, can accumulate quickly and damage many areas of the body.
Used commonly as an agriculture fertilizer, in an explosion like this it can cause a burn if it comes in contact with the eyes, mouth and lungs, he said.
At these high levels, people can smell it, and should get away from it quickly to prevent being injured, according to Dr. Barkman. Injuries can occur very quickly, he said.
The liquid ammonia becomes a gas in an explosion, in this case a plume, of smoke that also has particulates and other compounds in it that are dangerous to people with respiratory problems, he said. Getting far away from it quickly is important.
To see an interview with Dr. Barkman about the dangers of ammonia, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=agm9k0vntrg.