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Pollution Prevention and Abatement Handbook WORLD BANK GROUP Effective July 1998

Nitrogen Oxides

Nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the ambient air consist primarily of nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). These two forms of gaseous nitrogen oxides are significant pollutants of the lower atmosphere. Another form, nitrous oxide (N2O), is a greenhouse gas. At the point of discharge from man-made sources, nitric oxide, a colorless, tasteless gas, is the predominant form of nitrogen oxide. Nitric oxide is readily converted to the much more harmful nitrogen dioxide by chemical reaction with ozone present in the atmosphere. Nitrogen dioxide is a yellowish-orange to reddish-brown gas with a pungent, irritating odor, and it is a strong oxidant. A
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Finally, since the conversion of nitrogen dioxide from nitric oxide depends on solar intensity, concentrations are often greater on warm, sunny days. Nitrogen oxides decay rapidly as polluted air moves away from the source. Concentrations of nitrogen oxides in rural areas without major sources are typically close to background levels. However, nitrogen oxides can travel long distances in the upper atmosphere, contributing to elevated ozone levels and acidic depositions far from sources of emissions. Concentrations of nitrogen dioxide in homes may considerably exceed outdoor levels and may therefore be more important for human health. Large sources of indoor nitrogen dioxide include

Major Sources
Only about 10% of all NOx emissions come from anthropogenic sources (Godish 1991). The rest is produced naturally by anaerobic biological processes in soil and water, by lightning and volcanic activity, and by photochemical destruction of nitrogen compounds in the upper atmosphere. About 50% of emissions from anthropogenic sources comes from fossil-fuel-fired heat and electricity generating plants and slightly less from motor vehicles. Other sources include industrial boilers, incinerators, the manufacture of nitric acid and other nitrogenous chemicals, electric arc welding processes, the use of explosives in mining, and farm silos. Worldwide annual emissions of anthropogenic nitrogen oxides

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