Ammonia or more specifically “anhydrous ammonia” is a commonly used refrigerant in large freezing and refrigeration plants such as those involved in ice making, dairy products manufacturing and cold storage.
Exposure to ammonia, a colorless, corrosive and highly irritating gas with suffocating smell, can irritate or burn the nose, throat and respiratory tract, eyes and skin, and cause dizziness and nausea among victims.
“Government regulators, together with community leaders, should swiftly conduct an inspection of freezing and storage facilities to prevent ammonia leaks due to engineering flaws and releases occurring during operations and maintenance as well as accidental releases,” said Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition.
“We hope our proposal will also trigger greater recognition of the community right to know about hazardous chemicals being produced, stored, used, treated or disposed of in industrial facilities, some of which may be located next to homes and schools, and lead to the environmentally-sound management of chemicals and wastes,” he added.
The group directed its appeal to key government agencies in charge of chemical accident response and mitigation such as the DILG-Bureau of Fire Protection, DOLE-Occupational Safety and Health Center, DENR-Environmental Management Bureau, DOH-Environmental and Occupational Health Office and local government units.
The proposed inspection of freezing and storage facilities has become imperative following a series of ammonia gas leak episodes involving ice plants, the EcoWaste Coalition said.
On 1 April 2012, ammonia gas leak occurred at the Polar Bear Freezing and Storage Corp. in Barangay Manggahan, Pasig City that caused the hospitalization of three persons.
On 29 February 2012, an ammonia gas leak from the ENL ice plant and storage in Barangay Ayala, Zamboanga City sickened over 100 villagers.
On March 3 and 4 2011, residents of Barangay Tibag, Pulilan, Bulacan were affected by ammonia leak from a Nestle ice cream factory in the area.
On 20 February 2011, over 300 families had to be evacuated as a result of an ammonia gas spill at VCNC ice plant in Barangay Bagong Bantay, Quezon City.