NITROGEN DIOXIDE (NO2)
Nature and Sources of the Pollutant:
Nitrogen dioxide belongs to a family of highly reactive gases called nitrogen oxides (NOx). These gases form when fuel is burned at high temperatures, and come principally from motor vehicle exhaust and stationary sources such as electric utilities and industrial boilers.
A suffocating, brownish gas, nitrogen dioxide is a strong oxidizing agent that reacts in the air to form corrosive nitric acid, as well as toxic organic nitrates. It also plays a major role in the atmospheric reactions that produce ground-level ozone (or smog).
Health and Other Effects:
Nitrogen dioxide can irritate the lungs and lower resistance to respiratory infections such as influenza. The effects of short-term exposure are still unclear, but continued or frequent exposure to concentrations that are typically much higher than those normally found in the ambient air may cause increased incidence of acute respiratory illness in children. EPA's health-based national air quality standard for NO2 is 0.053 ppm (measured as an annual average).
Nitrogen oxides are important in forming ozone and may affect both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Nitrogen oxides in the air are a potentially significant contributor to a number of environmental effects such as acid rain and eutrophication in coastal waters like the Chesapeake Bay.
Eutrophication occurs when a body of water suffers an increase in nutrients that reduce the amount of oxygen in the water, producing an environment that is destructive to fish and other animal life.