NFPA ammonium nitrate fact sheet addresses potential dangers and safety benchmarks for AHJs, building owners and facility managers

October 22, 2020 – The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has released a new fact sheet to clear up misconceptions about ammonium nitrate dangers (PDF) and to provide best practices for protecting buildings and surroundings. The new resource for code officials, business owners, and facility managers began to take shape after the catastrophic explosion in Beirut, Lebanon that killed 190 people, injured 6,500 more, left an estimated 300,000 residents homeless, and resulted in $10–15 billion (US) in property damage.

Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound produced in both solid and liquid form that is commonly used in fertilizers. Pure ammonium nitrate is stable, and when stored properly, it poses few safety hazards. Destabilization, however, can occur when flames or fire heats the ammonium nitrate causing it to become self-reactive and give off gases that are flammable and can ignite.

Available in English and Spanish, the timely resource lists the conditions that might destabilize ammonium nitrate and offers safety steps so that facility operators and authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) can protect buildings before an enforcement issue arises or an incident occurs. The document covers the following:

  • How and Why Ammonium Nitrate Turns Dangerous
    • Dangerous Conditions
    • Highly Dangerous Conditions
  • How to Increase Facility Protection
  • Safety Requirements
    • New Construction
    • Existing Facilities
  • Detection and Notification Systems
  • Emergency Response Issues

“We have seen instances of ammonium nitrate destabilization in West, Texas; Texas City, Texas; and Tianjin, China. Like Beirut, fires started in areas adjacent to where the chemical compound was being stored with deadly consequences,” Laura Moreno, NFPA industrial and chemical lead said. “The requirements for safely storing ammonium nitrate, including construction requirements, separation distances, and measures to ensure that quantities are stored a safe distance from people and property, can be found in NFPA 400, Hazardous Materials Code. This new fact sheet distills some of that guidance so that authorities can take preemptive steps to reduce risk.”

NFPA has generated related content about ammonium nitrate including a video blog, an NFPA Journal article, a podcast, and a Learn Something New video. An Arabic version of the new fact sheet will be posted later this fall. All these resources point to the guidance that is available in NFPA 400, Hazardous Materials Code.

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

Founded in 1896, NFPA is a global self-funded nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. The association delivers information and knowledge through more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach and advocacy; and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission. For more information, visit www.nfpa.org. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed online for free at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.

Contact: Lorraine CarliPublic Affairs Office: +1 617 984-7275