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Name:  Konnie
Status: educator
Grade: 9-12
Country: N/A
Date: 1/9/2006

What is the chemical make up of ammonia and if it is as dangerous as proclaimed why do so many people use it for daily household cleaning and also, does amonia disinfect? I live in New Mexico and mice in New Mexico are known to carry disease and it is recommended that ammonia can kill the germs from these affected mice on contact- how is that possible if ammonia does not have disinfecting capabilities? Thank-you

There are several questions here: 1. The chemical formula/structure of ammonia is NH3, with the three hydrogens forming the base of a trigonal pyramid and a pair of electrons forming the apex of the pyramid. Like all chemical substances ammonia can be toxic, but it is also has a very irritating, characteristic odor. As a result, one would usually make a hasty retreat from a source of ammonia unless trapped. Historically, ammonia has been the active ingredient in "smelling salts". When a person is faint, a whiff of ammonia quickly causes an awakening reaction because of the irritating smell. Ammonia has disinfecting properties, partly because it raises the pH. The increased alkalinity kills many types of microbes. A note of safety: ammonia should NEVER be used in combination with household bleach. The combination of the two produces chloramines, in which 1,2, or all 3 of the hydrogens are replaced by chlorine atoms having the formula/structure (NH2Cl, NHCl2, and NCl3). These substances are much more toxic, and irritating than ammonia or bleach, each one by itself. In swimming pools that are not properly balanced, it is these compounds that produce eye irritation.

Vince Calder

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