Nitrogen oxides are a mixture of gases that are composed of nitrogen and oxygen. Two of the most toxicologically significant nitrogen oxides are nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide
, both are nonflammable and colorless to brown at room temperature. Nitric oxide is a sharp sweet-smelling gas at room temperature, whereas nitrogen dioxide has a strong, harsh odor and is a liquid at room temperature, becoming a reddish-brown gas above 70 degrees F.
Nitrogen oxides are released to the air from the exhaust of motor vehicles, the burning of coal, oil, or natural gas, and during processes such as arc welding
, electroplating, engraving, and dynamite blasting. They are also produced commercially by reacting nitric acid with metals or cellulose.
Nitrogen oxides are used in the production of nitric acid, lacquers, dyes, and other chemicals. Nitrogen oxides are also used in rocket fuels, nitration of organic chemicals
, and the manufacture of explosives.
Everybody is exposed to small amounts of nitrogen oxides in ambient air. Higher exposure may occur by burning wood or kerosene
or near gas stoves or if you smoke
. Exposure to high levels of nitrogen oxides can damage the respiratory airways
. Contact with the skin
can cause burns
. Nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide have been found in at least 9 and 6 of the 1,585 National Priorities List sites
identified by the Environmental Protection Agency
See a doctor if you have been harmed by this substance. In addition, it
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Source: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
- Toxic & Hazardous Substances
- Burns: Overview
- Fatigue: Overview
- Lung & Airway Disorders
- Nausea: Overview
- Nitrogen Oxides: Frequently Asked Questions