Anhydrous ammonia is used as an agricultural fertilizer and industrial refrigerant. It is also used in the illegal production of methamphetamines.
Illegal drug makers often steal anhydrous ammonia from areas where it is stored or used.
The thefts have resulted in potentially dangerous chemical releases from agricultural product dealers and facilities with ammonia refrigeration systems.
Leaks and spill have occurred for a variety of reasons: valves were left open after anhydrous ammonia was siphoned off; locks were sawed or broken; anhydrous ammonia was transferred inappropriately into makeshift containers; plugs were removed from anhydrous ammonia lines at refrigeration facilities; or wrong hose and/or fittings were attached to storage containers.
Anhydrous ammonia can be harmful to people who come in contact with it or inhale airborne concentrations of the gas.
When stolen the toxic gas can be unintentionally released, causing injuries to emergency responders, and the criminals themselves.
EPA's chemical alert provides tips to deter anhydrous ammonia theft, such as educating employees about the theft problems, and storing tanks in well-lit areas.
For a copy of the alert, visit EPA's Web site at www.epa.gov/ceppo.