Air Quality: Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)

Three oxides of nitrogen, or nitrogen oxides (NOx), are typically present in the atmosphere.

  • Nitric oxide (NO) is a colourless and odourless gas.
  • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) gas has a reddish-brown hue and produces a pungent and irritating odour.
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a commonly used an aesthetic, known as laughing gas.

N2O is produced by microbiological processes, while the other gases are mainly by-products of fossil fuel combustion processes and significant air contaminants. The largest sources of NOX are motor vehicles, fossil fuel power generation plants and industrial processes. NO2 transforms in air to form gaseous nitric acid and nitrates, which contribute to the formation of fine particulate matter. It also has a major role in the atmospheric reactions that produce ground-level ozone.

Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)

For more than 30 years, NOx have been monitored by the SLEA at itsSarnia and Corunna stations, the locations where emission dispersion modelling predicts the highest local concentrations will occur. The monitoring method for NOX, called chemiluminescence, was set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is based on the reaction of nitric oxide with an excess amount of ozone to produce a measurable emission of light energy. The amount of light energy produced is proportional to the concentration of NO in the air sample being tested.


See the most recent Progress Review Technical Summary for details on N0x