On July 7, 2012, the U.S. Coast Guard responded to an anhydrous ammonia leak on board the F/V EXCELLENCE while the fishing vessel was docked in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.  According to reports, the vessel had been leaking ammonia from a one-inch pipe on the low pressure side of the refrigeration system.  Because of the potential hazard posed to the community and the crew, the Coast Guard established a 500 foot exclusionary zone around the vessel, evacuated the crew, and had the vessel towed away from the port to a buoy.

Ammonia is a colorless, highly irritating gas that will cause burning of the eyes, nose, and throat even in small amounts.  With higher doses of exposure, coughing or choking may occur and deaths have occurred due to swollen throats or chemical burns to the lungs.  Eye exposure to concentrated gas or liquid can cause serious corneal burns or even blindness.  The severity of the symptoms from ammonia exposure usually depends on the degree of exposure.

If you have ongoing symptoms associated with an ammonia exposure, you should contact an experienced maritime lawyer to explain your options.  Exposure to ammonia can lead to long-term complications, including occupational asthma.  Our law firm obtained a verdict in excess of $1.1 million dollars in 2008 in King County Superior Court for three workers who developed occupational asthma from a chemical exposure on a Washington State ferry.  This is believed to be one of the largest verdicts for occupational asthma in the country.    

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