This document is provided by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) ONLY as an historical reference for the public health community. It is no longer being maintained and the data it contains may no longer be current and/or accurate.
Anhydrous ammonia, a colorless gas with a pungent, suffocating fumes, is used primarily as an agricultural fertilizer and industrial refrigerant (1). Anhydrous ammonia is also a key ingredient for illicit methamphetamine (meth) production in makeshift laboratories. Exposure to anhydrous ammonia can be immediately dangerous to life or health (1,2). Anhydrous ammonia generally is not available for sale to the public; states require a license for purchase. Because of this, many illicit meth producers (i.e., "cookers") resort to stealing anhydrous ammonia. If released into the environment, anhydrous ammonia can cause acute injuries to emergency responders, the public, and the cookers themselves. In addition, when handled improperly, anhydrous ammonia can be explosive and deadly. This report describes examples of anhydrous ammonia thefts associated with illicit meth production, summarizes ammonia theft events reported to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), and suggests injury prevention recommendations, such as installing valve locks or fencing on unattended tanks and donning appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when responding to releases