Ammonia is a chemical that is made both by humans and by nature. It is made up of one part nitrogen (N) and three parts hydrogen (H3). The amount of ammonia manufactured every year by humans is almost equal to the amount produced by nature every year. However, when ammonia is found at a level that may cause concern, it was likely produced either directly or indirectly by humans.
Ammonia gets into water supplies most frequently as runoff in agricultural areas where it is applied as fertilizer and it easily finds its way into underground aquifers from animal feedlot runoff. Ammonia itself is not often found in well water because bacteria in the soil convert it to nitrates. Ammonia can be very corrosive to some copper plumbing systems. Ammonia is not regulated by current drinking water standards. Ammonia is toxic to fish and to dialysis patients. Its toxicity varies with the pH of the water. Although ammonia is an irritant to the respiratory tract, the limited number of studies that have been conducted show no long-term ill effects. There is no evidence, for example, that ammonia can cause cancer
How can ammonia affect my health? Scientists use many tests to protect the public from harmful effects of toxic chemicals and to find ways for treating persons who have been harmed. One way to learn whether a chemical will harm people is to determine how the body absorbs, uses, and releases the chemical. For some chemicals, animal testing may be necessary. Animal testing may also help identify health effects such as cancer or birth defects. Without laboratory animals, scientists would lose a basic method for getting information needed to make wise decisions that protect public health. Scientists have the responsibility to treat research animals with care and compassion. Scientists must comply with strict animal care guidelines because laws today protect the welfare of research animals. .
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