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Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) 

Nitrogen Dioxide Molecular DiagramOxides of nitrogen are produced by high temperature combustion of fossil fuels.  Nitrogen oxide is the most common form of these oxides but it quickly converts to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) on exposure to the atmosphere.  NO2 is a reddish-brown coloured gas with a strong smell.  It causes acid rain and can cause respiratory problems in people.  It also helps produce ground level ozone, a major component of smog.  Alberta Environment guidelines for NO2 are an average of 210 parts per billion (ppb) over 1 hour, 110 ppb over a 24 hour period and annual averages of 30 ppb.

In Alberta well over 40% of emissions of oxides of nitrogen come from transportation sources, primarily cars.  Just less than 20% comes from power plants and about 35% from industrial sources.  Oxides of nitrogen are measured using chemiluminescence.  Nitrogen oxide mixed with ozone will produce nitrogen dioxide, oxygen and light.  The more light that is produced, the higher the concentration of oxides of nitrogen.

Reprinted with permission of Alberta Community Development, Cultural Facilities and Historical Resources Division.  

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