Respirators And Masks For Ammonia – Know The Difference

Activated charcoal masks, 3M masks, and an OSHA-approved combination of 3M and P100 are the best respirators to protect against ammonia. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the form of an approved mask or respirator should be worn if you are going to be exposed to airborne ammonia.

Ammonia is a naturally occurring gas that enters our homes naturally from circulating air, fertilizers, pets (the gas is a product of animal urine), and pipe leaks. It has several dire health consequences, and it’s important to limit your exposure to ammonia via respirators if you at risk of being around high concentrations of the gas.

This article explains how ammonia becomes airborne, and why inhaling it is dangerous. We go through the different respirators and recommend the three best masks currently available for ammonia.

  • Exposure to ammonia can trigger severe respiratory problems, including asthma, lung fibrosis and chest pain.
  • Ammonia respirators with ammonia cartridges or at least two ammonia canisters can help protect you from exposure to airborne particles.
  • A P100 mask with an organic vapor or acid gas cartridge filter can also be used.

What Is Ammonia?

Ammonia is a gas found in almost all biospheres (air, water, and soil). It has a pungent, urine or sweat-like odor.

Other than naturally existing in our surroundings, this gas is also a waste product of human and animal metabolism and is created from the breakdown of proteins (which is why it is in urine)


Here’s how you most likely to be exposed to airborne ammonia (unless you work with this gas, then you already know how you are exposed!):

  • Pipe Leaks: Plumbing pipes contain gases like ammonia. Any cracks or blockages in the drains can cause ammonia to seep into the house, as well as into the environment.
  • Industrial Production: Ammonia is an essential component of fertilizers. Other than that, it’s also used to manufacture plastics, fibers, explosives, dyes, and pharmaceuticals. For this, the gas is produced industrially and can escape into the atmosphere.
  • Pet Urine: Ammonia is a part of pet urine. If you have pets that pee inside your home (e.g., cats, or poorly trained dogs) and your home is not regularly and thoroughly cleaned, you’re at high risk of ammonia-related side effects.
  • Concentrated Ammonia Solutions: Ammonia is widely used in cleaning agents and detergents. Spillage of concentrated solutions (having more than 0.9 g/ml) can cause airborne ammonia exposure. In fact, ammonia in cleaning products can be as high as 10%.
  • Decaying Manure: Ammonia is produced from natural decomposition. So, farmers, stablehands, stockhands or farm workers are naturally exposed.

If you are concerned about regular exposure to ammonia in your home or workspace, Plentiful Air has a complete guide to air purifiers that remove ammonia available here.

Health Complications

Ammonia toxicity primarily occurs when you inhale the gas, and it’s respiratory disorders that are the most common health hazard, including:

  • Chronic respiratory tract irritation
  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • Chest pain
  • Lung fibrosis (thickening of lung parenchyma with dead, fibrous tissue)
  • Asthma

Who Needs To Wear A Mask For Ammonia?

Typically, ammonia concentrations indoors and outdoors range between 10 to 70 ppb and 50 ppt to 5 ppb in the outdoor air. While several factors influence outdoor concentrations of the gas, the amount of it indoors can usually be controlled with proper cleaning, maintenance of basic hygiene, and using ammonia-free products.

According to the National Institute For Occupational Safety And Health (NIOSH), 25 ppm over 8 hours is the recommended exposure limit for ammonia. In industrial settings, it is prohibited to expose workers to 35 ppm of ammonia for more than 15 minutes a day.

However, to ensure minimal health complications, it is better to wear a mask in areas you suspect are prone to acute ammonia exposure.

Types Of Respiratory Masks That Protect Against Ammonia

Respiratory masks come with air filters that remove contaminants from the air before it reaches your respiratory tract, providing a protective barrier against airborne pollutants. Each mask has a different media (filter material), which is made for specific types of contaminants.

Respirators that have been approved for gases and organic vapors and the ones with ammonia cartridges or at least two ammonia canisters are required for protection against the gas.

For workers dealing directly with ammonia, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) full time is advised. This is primarily respirators, but can also include eyewear, coveralls, boots, and gloves, and it prevents exposure from skin contact with ammonia molecules.

Another piece of equipment that you can use for ammonia exposure is a P100 mask with gas cartridges like 3M Organic Vapor /Acid Gas Cartridge /Filter 6.923 P100. The cartridge filters volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and gases like ammonia, while the filter media forms a strong barrier against other toxins like lead, asbestos, fiberglass dust, fumes, and mists.

Other than that, adding a multi-gas charcoal cartridge will also ensure maximum safety from ammonia. This is because activated charcoal is highly porous and readily extracts and adsorbs airborne gases, which are then trapped in the tiny pores.

Three Best Respirators For Ammonia

Here are the three best ammonia respirators:

3M 6004 Ammonia /Methylamine Respirator Cartridge

3M is a popular and reliable brand dealing in respirators, and their 6004 Ammonia /Methylamine Respirator Cartridge is the first product on our list.

This is a premium cartridge optimized for the filtration of airborne gases, especially ammonia and methylamine. It is a half-facepiece reusable respirator that can easily attach to a comfortable mask for protection against ammonia toxicity.

Apart from ammonia, it also filters dust, paint, and volatile molecules from cleaning agents.

PD-100 Full Face Organic Vapor And Particulate Respirator

Next up, we have the PD-100 Full Face Organic Vapor and Particulate Respirator. This is a high-end mask that not only prevents ammonia from entering your respiratory tract but also protects your eyes and face from ammonia exposure.

It comes with a heavy-duty filtration system made of dual-activated charcoal filters and a full-face impact-resistant mask. The high-quality filter media and full face coverage make it a piece of suitable protective equipment for working in labs, industries, and other high-risk setups.

Since it cannot be worn without an eye-piece, the face mask has a removable film that prevents fogging for the best visibility.

3M P100 Respirator Cartridge Filter

The last product is the 3M P100 Respirator Cartridge Filter. This combination has been approved by OSHA for the filtration of organic vapors, acid gases, ammonia, methylamine, formaldehyde, and several other particulate contaminants.

It is a cartridge that can be used with both half and full-face pieces, preferably 6000, 7000, FF-400 Series, Scott AV-3000 HT, and Scott AV-632.

The cartridge has a swept-back design that makes it comfortable to wear. Unlike many other face masks, 3M P100 is specially designed to ensure no blockage in view while ensuring a thorough face seal.

It is perfect for use during the handling of paints, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, powder coating, and several other potential sources of ammonia toxicity.

Guidelines For Safety Against Ammonia

Here are some safety guidelines to help prevent ammonia toxicity:

  • When directly handling ammonia, such as in industries that produce the gas, regularly inspect for possible leaks and spills. It is also crucial to check the involved machines and promptly report and fix any malfunction.
  • In the industrial setup, it is essential to always have adequate storage of escape respirators for use in case of leaks. Escape masks are portable apparatuses that regenerate safe, breathable air during an emergency evacuation of affected areas.
  • Don’t place machines near any heat and ignition sources. Also, ensure the surrounding area is a no-smoking zone.
  • Control the airflow using local exhaust ventilation and enclosure.
  • For ammonia cylinders, always use a hand truck, and avoid dragging or rolling them on the floor to move.
  • Store the ammonia cylinders in a cool, dry place, having minimal light and humidity.
  • It is crucial to keep the cylinders tightly sealed at all times. This stands for empty containers as well because they can contain hazardous residues.
  • Always wear PPE when working, and remember to properly dispose of your kit after work.
  • If you suspect ammonia toxicity (from characteristic pungent odor or onset of related health symptoms like chest pain, headache, and congestion), immediately vacate the area, and consult your physician for a thorough checkup.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does An N95 Mask Protect Against Ammonia?

N95 masks are disposable respirators and work only for non-oil-based particulate contaminants, they are not effective against ammonia and other gases.

Do 3M Masks Protect You From Ammonia?

3M is a trusted brand of respirators and they produced several high-quality negative and positive pressure masks. The 3M masks that come with ammonia/methylamine cartridges can protect you from ammonia.

Does P100 Protect You From Ammonia?

While P100 filters primarily protect you from asbestos and lead, NIOSH has approved a 3M CFR84 combination with a P100 cartridge filter as an adequate respirator for ammonia and methylamine.

Theresa Orr

Theresa Orr holds a PhD in Earth Science and specializes in determining past climates from rocks using geochemistry. Her passion for clean water, soil and air drives her to provide easy to understand information for everyone to read.

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