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5 February 2021. The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate for chemical safety and environmental health, pressed local government units (LGUs) to immediately conduct inspections of ice and cold storage plants following ammonia gas leak incidents in Metro Manila and Batangas province last Wednesday.
On February 3, an ammonia gas leak from an ice plant in Navotas City led to the death of two workers, the hospitalization of close to 100 people, and the evacuation of some 3,000 nearby residents. Leakage from an ice plant in Lian Batangas on the same day caused the plants at an adjacent creek to wither and the fish to die.
Ammonia, particularly anhydrous ammonia, is a common refrigerant used in commercial and industrial facilities such as those involved in ice making, dairy products manufacturing, and cold storage.
According to material safety data sheets, exposure to ammonia, a colorless, corrosive and highly irritating gas with suffocating smell, can irritate or burn the nose, throat and respiratory tract, eyes and skin, and cause dizziness and nausea among victims. Exposure to a high concentration of ammonia can be fatal.
“We call upon LGUs to conduct an immediate inspection of ice and cold storage facilities in their areas of jurisdiction to prevent the possibility of chemical accidents in the future, as well as to reduce harm to workers, residents and the environment,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“The inspections should be undertaken with the participation of frontline communities as they are the ones most seriously affected in the event of any untoward chemical leaks or spills,” he emphasized.
“The latest ammonia gas leak incidents should prompt both the public and private sectors into reviewing and upgrading their chemical accident prevention and preparedness programs,” he concluded.
The government should also document and analyze past incidents of ammonia gas leaks to learn from their causes, the responses made, and to avoid such poisoning events from happening again, the EcoWaste Coalition suggested.
Based on published news reports, ammonia gas leak incidents have occurred several times through the years, the EcoWaste Coalition noted.
In March 2019, the ammonia gas tank of an ice plant in Barangay Tuburan, Pagadian City exploded killing one worker and injuring two others.
In September 2018, at least 35 residents of Polomolok, South Cotabato were hospitalized due to an ammonia gas leak from a fruit processing and storage plant located in the area. In February of that year, an ammonia gas leak from a nearby ice plant sent 57 students of the Olongapo City National High School to a hospital.
In October 2016, a worker was killed and another worker was hospitalized after being exposed to ammonia that leaked from a cold storage facility in Mandaue City, while hundreds of workers at an industrial complex in Carmona, Cavite stopped work due to an ammonia gas leak from an ice plant.
In June 2012, hundreds of residents of Barangay Sta. Cruz, Quezon City fled to safety following an ammonia gas leak from an ice plant. Also in April of the same year, an ammonia gas leak occurred at a cold storage facility in Barangay Manggahan, Pasig City causing the hospitalization of three persons. In February of that year, an ammonia gas leak from an ice plant sickened 100 residents in Barangay Ayala, Zamboanga City.
In March 2011, residents of Barangay Tibag, Pulilan, Bulacan were affected by an ammonia leak from an ice cream factory in the area. In February 2011, over 300 families had to be evacuated as a result of an ammonia gas spill at an ice plant in Barangay Bagong Bantay, Quezon City.