Ammonium Phosphate, Which Sickened 12 Workers in S.F., Considered 'Non-Toxic'

Keep this stuff out of your eyes, folks
This morning, SF Weekly reported on the "white powder" that sickened a dozen workers at the Pier 96 recycling facility and sent one to the hospital.

While the term "white powder" evokes the very worst post-9/11 memories, the white powder in question turned out to be ammonium phosphate -- which is, literally, a garden-variety fertilizer. Considering a dozen workers were injured, the Pier 96 recycling plant was evacuated for three hours, and a phalanx of emergency personnel spent all morning scoping the place out, it figures that this was the wrong way to dispose of ammonium phosphate. But you'd be surprised what the right way is.

San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge says the ideal method of getting rid of unwanted ammonium phosphate is to "dump it on your lawn." That was seconded by personnel at the J.R. Simplot company, a massive Idaho maker of fertilizers. "I just dump it in my garden," said one employee. He also "leaves it in the bag and waits till next year."

Ammonium phosphate, by the way, is classified as "non-toxic." If it gets into your eyes, however, it may cause "particulate discomfort" -- which is just what happened this morning. If you manage to swallow some, expect diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps, or formation of methemoglobinemia.

No licking the lawn now, y'hear?

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