The fertilizer smell coming from the garage is caused by the ammonia in the nitrogen. Most fertilizers contain nitrogen, which is used to help grass and landscape plants grow. A small amount of exposure to ammonia fumes will not harm people; however, concentrated amounts can cause a host of health concerns. Properly storing fertilizer prevents odor and exposure to ammonia.
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Gardeners and home occupants can be exposed to ammonia in fertilizer when they breathe the air inside the garage. In fact, smelling fertilizer means you are exposed to at least 1 part per million of ammonia. Exposure to this level can cause health concerns, such as eye, throat and nose irritation. Other symptoms of ammonia exposure include headache, burning eyes, nausea, lung burns and permanent damage to the eyes.
Remove any cars in the garage when cleaning, and keep the doors open to prevent concentrated amounts of ammonia exposure. In addition, look for bright-colored granule material on the floor or shelving since liquid fertilizers can discolor the spilled area. Use a leaf blower to blow the granules back into the yard. Also, wash the area with a hose, and leave the doors open until the ground dries.
Store fertilizer just for a few days, according to North Carolina State University. The longer people store fertilizer in the garage, the higher the risk of floods or spills carrying the ammonia into the groundwater. However, storing fertilizer is sometimes unavoidable if you buy in bulk for the entire season. Gardeners must take safety precautions to prevent accidents or to reduce the damage caused by spills. In addition, careful monitoring is important for the entire length of time that you store fertilizer in the garage.
Place bagged fertilizer in a location high enough that flooding will not damage the bag, and place mats down near the fertilizer to soften the blow if any of the bag becomes dislodged. Also, store liquid fertilizer away from the traffic in the garage to decrease the likelihood of spills. Check liquid fertilizer for rust or any indication that the spray bottle is decomposing, and change the containers if the lids are not properly sealing. Placing the liquid fertilizer bottle into a larger container helps capture any spills.