Air pollution

Nitrogen Dioxide

By Yoki Ho

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a gaseous air pollutant made up of nitrogen and oxygen that belongs to the nitrogen oxides (NOx) family of gases. Nowadays,  fossil fuels like coal, oil, gas, or diesel are burned at high temperatures to produce electricity. During these processes, nitrogen dioxide  is produced. Particle pollution and the chemical reactions that produce ozone are both aided by NO2 and other nitrogen oxides in the outside air. It is one of six common air pollutants with national air quality guidelines in place to control their levels in the open air. When fossil fuels like wood or natural gas are burned indoors, NO2 can develop. 

Impacts of nitrogen dioxide

Health impacts

  • irritate airways in the human respiratory system and aggravate respiratory diseases
  • the development of asthma and respiratory infections with symptoms such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing

Environmental impacts

  • Nitrogen dioxide reacts with water, oxygen and other chemicals in the atmosphere to form acid rain which harms ecosystems including forests and lakes. Acid rain contains nitrogen that can cause nitrogen pollution in the coastal waters and may lead to a decline in fish population
  • The nitrate particles resulting from nitrogen dioxide make the air hazy and lowers the visibility

Possible solutions to minimize its negative impacts

Indoor Nitrogen Dioxide Exposure

  • Ensure gas appliances are properly adjusted and use exhaust fans vented to the outdoors. 
  • Stay away from any power plants or locations that use sources of NO2 like diesel-powered equipment and moveable engines. 
  • Avoid smoking tobacco
  • Utilize indoor air cleaners, such as air purifiers with HEPA filters, that help reduce airborne pollutants within the home.    

Outdoor Nitrogen Dioxide Exposure 

  • Staying indoors, especially when pollution levels are high. Average level in homes without combustion appliances is about half that of outdoors.(Environmental Protection Agency, EPA) 
  • Reduce the use of motorized vehicles by walking, biking, or using public transportation especially for close destinations.