Nitric oxide is found to be a non-toxic gas with no color, taste and odor while nitrogen dioxide is reddish-brown in color and possess a strong and irritating odor. Nitrogen dioxide feeds on light and is a major factor in the formation of smog. Nitrous oxide, on the other hand, is found to be a non-toxic, colorless and mildly sweet-smelling gas. Nitrous oxide is made of nature but there is also the laughing gas used in anesthetic which is a man-made kind.
Sources of Nitrogen Oxides
Nitrogen oxides have two major sources, nature made and man-made. The ones made by nature are a by-product of bacterial processes, lightning, growth and decay in all biological beings, and fires from forest and grassland. Nitrogen oxides which are man-made are generated by burning fossil fuels. A large portion of nitrogen oxide emissions is made up of nitric oxide, another part is nitrous oxide while nitrogen dioxide composed less than 10%. The combustion temperature is the determinant of the amount of nitrogen dioxide emissions. The level of nitrogen dioxide is proportional to the increase in temperature. Nitrous oxide are also emitted into the atmosphere through the fertilizers used in agriculture.
Effects of Nitrogen Oxides
Nitric oxide is non-toxic as a sole component but can be easily turned into nitrogen dioxide once in the atmosphere. There are many negative effects, once accumulated and reached a high level, such as toxicity to plants, damaging the leaves and stalling growth and lowering the yield. A lower concentration of nitrogen dioxide may cause harm when mixed with sulphur dioxide or ozone. Because it is known to be a major contributor to fog, it may cause lungs irritation and easily subject a person to respiratory infections.
Nitrous oxide is one of the greenhouse gases that depletes the ozone layer while nitrogen oxides contributes to the formation of acid rain.
Actions done to help reduce these emissions
The federal as well as provincial governments have set an objective to raise air quality by reducing nitrogen dioxide concentration to 0.21 parts/million in a period of one hour. Nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide level in the atmosphere is being monitored regularly.
Guidelines were also released for power plants emissions. Gas-fired compressor engines that uses new technology are found to generated only a quarter of an old engine’s emissions.
The most significant and strictest regulation is subjecting automobiles to follow the auto emission standard which is designed to reduce the emissions caused by nitrogen oxides.
Aside from the methods done above, the latest technology made possible the invention of emissions control system that could help reduce by a significant amount the emissions of harmful gases into the environment.