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Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook metals, minerals, and fuels 1972
Year 1972, Volume 1 (1972)

Briggs, Ted C.
Nitrogen,   pp. 881-896 PDF (2.1 MB)


Page 884

884 MINERALS YEARBOOK, 1972 
CONSUMPTION AND USES 
 The principal end use for fixed nitrogen materials in 1972 was, as usual,
for fertilizers. Fertilizer usage accounted for about 74% of the domestic
fixed nitrogen consumption. Environmentalists and ecologists continued their
efforts to limit the use of nitrogen fertilizers, but various other studies
have found no evidence of danger to man, animals, or the global environment
from present patterns of nitrogen fertilizer usage. Also, the Illinois Pollution
Control Board, after nearly a year of public hearings, rejected attempts
to severely curtail fertilizer usage.P 
 One very important, but rarely mentioned, class of nitrogen compounds was
the surface-active agents. The basic chemicals are primary amines obtained
when fatty acids are reacted with ammonia. The largest single use of these
materials was for fabric softeners. Another important use of surface-active
agents was in herbicides and insecticides in order to make the pesticides
cling to the plants and prevent them from being washed away by rain or dew.
Surface-active agents were used in agriculture as anticaking agents in fertilizers.
The amount of surface-active agents required to impart anticaking properties
was small, approximately 0-3 weight-percent. 
 In the textile industry, the nitrogen-containing surface-active agents were
used in the formulation of antistatic spinning oils, as softeners, as dye-leveling
and retarding agents, and as dye fixatives. In the bituminous road construction
industry, surface-active agents were used as adhesion agents to prevent a
water barrier from forming when the hot bitumen comes into contact with stone
surfaces during road construction. 
 Surface-active agents were used extensively in mineral ore beneficiation.
The first big industrial application of aliphatic amine salts was for the
flotation of potash. Amines have a peculiarly strong affinity to any form
of silicon surfaces, and amine collectors were used for the enrichment of
silica sand for glass factories. Also, amines were used to produce a high-quality
white clay for paper coating, and were used to remove silica from iron ore.
In the petroleum industry, surface-active agents were used in drilling fluids,
as corrosion inhibitors, as de-icers and antistalling agents in gasoline,
in diesel and domestic fuel oils to 
inhibit oxidation and polymerization, as acid scavengers, and to keep small
solid particles in suspension.1O 
 Under pressure from some members of Congress and from consumer advocates,
the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) placed mild restrictions on the use
of sodium nitrite as a food additive. Sodium nitrates and sodium nitrites
have been used for many years as food additives to prevent red meat from
turning brown, to impart the red color to cured meats, and to retard development
of the microorganism clostridium botulinum which, when it grows in food and
is ingested, becomes an acute food poison marked by a high mortality rate.
The criticism of sodium nitrite usage as a food additive resulted from some
scientific data that indicated the sodium nitrite could react with secondary
and tertiary amines under certain conditions to form some nitrosamines that
have been found to be carcinogenic in test animals. The FDA thus had the
difficult choice between a possible risk of cancer or the very real hazard
of botulism. The new restrictions remove the chemical from food uses which
were deemed nonessential.l1 
 ' Agricultural Chemicals & Commercial Fertilizers. Attempts To Severely
Curtail Fertilizer Use Rejected by Illinois Pollution Board. V. 27, No. 5,
May 1972, pp. 11-14. 
 Commoner Point, the Finger at Nitrogen. 
V. 27, No. 3, March 1972, p. 3. 
 Chemical & Engineering News. Controversy Builds Over Fertilizer Runoff.
V. 50, No. 2, Jan. 10, 1972, pp. 17—18. 
 Chemical Marketing Reporter. Fertilizer Use 
Could Be Boosted Without Hurting Ecology: 
USDA Man. V. 201, No. 7, Feb. 14, 1972, pp. 5, 
47. 
 Nitrate Hazard,. V. 202, No. 10, Sept. 4, 1972, p. 9. 
 Farm Chemicals & Croplife. Commoner Gets a Fertilizer Lesson. V. 135,
No. 1, January 1972, pp. 32—34. 
 It's Time to Speak Out. V. 135, No. 2, February 1972, pp. 14—15. 
 National Academy of Sciences. Accumulation of Nitrate. Washington, D.C.,
1972, 106 pp. 
 Pratt, P. F. Nitrate in the Unsaturated Zone 
Under Agricultural Lands. U.S. Environmental 
Protection Agency, Water Pollution Control 
Research Series No. 16060 DOE, April 1972, 45 
pp. 
 Wolf, I. A., and A. E. Wasserman. Nitrates, Nitrites, and Nitrosamines.
Science, v. 176, No. 4043, July 7, 1972, pp. 15—20. 
 ' °Schwitzer, M. K. The Application of Cationic Surface Active Agents.
Chem. and md. (London), No. 21, Nov. 4, 1972, pp. 822—831. 
 1~ Chemical Marketing Reporter. Nitrites, 
Nitrates Reprieved as FDA Devises Compromise; 
Anti-Botulism Property Cited. V. 202, No. 20, 
Nov. 13, 1972, pp. 7, 18. 
 Chemical Week. Accord on Nitrites. V. 111, No. 21, Nov. 22, 1972, p. 27.


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