A recent warning from the National Propane Gas Association highlights additional dangers from the production of methamphetamine.
Anhydrous ammonia is a common ingredient in the production of methamphetamine and adds to the growing list of hazards found at incidents involving meth labs. According to a release (no pun intended) by the National Propane Gas Association, anhydrous ammonia has been found to be stored and pressurized in consumer-grade propane tanks. The safety alert notes that anhydrous will corrode and deteriorate the brass service valves of a propane tank. The brass turns to a blue-green stain after exposure to anhydrous ammonia. There is no mention of time frame to failure/or quantity/concentration of anhydrous ammonia that will cause deterioration or failure of the service valve. It is noted that if the valve shows evidence of exposure to anhydrous ammonia it can't be trusted and it may be dangerous to move the cylinder. Valve failure may result in a violent discharge of the valve...resulting in injuries.
Many responders have been made aware of the dangers of meth lab incidents. We know to consider the chemical hazards as well and physical hazards at these locations and to be mindful that meth labs exist in nearly every jurisdiction, even on the highway. We also know to consider ammonia of various types in refrigeration and fertilizing operations, as well as in the residential setting as used for cleaning and disinfection in the commercial setting.
The issue of improper storage of anhydrous ammonia and the potential for service valve failure is just the tip of the iceberg. Propane tanks that have had anhydrous ammonia stored in them may be found in retail centers, craft stores, or any other location that offers a trade-in circulation for consumer-grade propane cylinders. This situation has to be added to your pre-planning and situational awareness.
Click here for the Safety Alerts page of the National Propane Gas Association. All photos courtesy of the National Propane Gas Association.