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Q. Why are NOx gases harmful?


A. Internal combustion engines can produce all three nitrogen oxides.

Nitrous oxide (N2O), also known as 'laughing gas'.

  • It is a serious greenhouse gas, and is defined as being 298 times as bad as CO2 because of its radiative effect, and the time taken to break it down.
  • Used as an anaesthetic and generally considered to be non-toxic. It does react with vitamin B12, which may be a problem for those who are deficient.
  • It is broken down in the stratosphere, and catalyses the breakdown of ozone. Ozone in the upper atmosphere is vital for absorbing UV rays; at the earth’s surface, it is harmful.

Nitric oxide (NO).

  • Readily oxidised in the atmosphere to nitrogen dioxide.
  • Non-toxic in small quantities, infact it serves a vital role as a regulator within the human body.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

  • A major pollutant and component of smog. Its brown fumes may be familiar from school chemistry experiments.
  • It reacts with water to produce nitric acid, which is why it is so irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract.




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