Nitrogen Dioxide Killing U S Softly  Term Paper

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The former had been neglected. This was a very serious kind of neglect, she said. She concluded that unless the nitrogen problem was confronted and adequately contained, climate change would not be solved (Bohan).


EPA established that exposure to indoor NO below the 53 ppb outdoor standard could lead to respiratory symptoms among children with asthma, especially in a multi-family setting (Belanger 2006). This effect continues to be a public health issue because of the number of people exposed to the gas. According to the U.S. Census, more than half of all U.S. households use gas. Their primary source of residential NO is a gas-fueled cooking appliance. This was the summary finding of a study conducted with 1,002 participating families in Connecticut and southwestern Massachusetts from 1997 to 1999. It associated indoor NO with increased respiratory symptoms among asthmatic children. At present, there are no U.S. standards for indoor levels of NO. But these levels found to have significant health effects among asthmatic children in this setting are similar to the outdoor annual exposure of 21 ppb recommended by the World Health Organization (Belanger). The EPA fixed.053 ppm as the average 24-hour limit for NO2 outdoors.


In addressing the growing concern over NO gases, the Environmental Protection Agency planned to propose emission standards for "stationary" diesel engines (Osenga 2005). The New Source Performance Standards, according to EPA, would reduce these harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulates, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons from new, altered and re-manufactured stationary diesel engines. Stationary engines are those commonly used in power generation, compressor or pump sets. According to EPA, they are reciprocating, rotary and other internal combustion engines. These standards would subject such engines to the same levels set by EPA's non-road diesel engine standards (Osenga).

These standards would be in keeping with the demands of the lobbying group, Environmental Defense, that EPA complete a final stand by June 28, 2006 (Osenga 2005). They considered technologies, costs of control and fuel requirements, which would reduce the sulfur content in the engines. EPA said that these rules would take effect in three stages. The first would be a transition period for engines built after the year of the proposal but before the 2007 modal year. Each owner would be obliged to purchase an engine and operate and maintain it according to manufacturer's instructions. He would, in most cases, buy a certified off-highway engine for stationary use. If not, it would be a non-certified engine, which should comply with emission limits set before 2007, according to EPA. Engines manufactured from 2007 would need to certify that their engines meet the required emissions levels for the same size engine and model year for non-road engines in the Tiers 1 to 4 categories (Osenga).

Of the total amount of nitrogen created to sustain food production, only 2-10% turns into food and actually consumed (Fields 2004). The rest gets lost in the environment. Since the un-consumed reactive nitrogen does not return to molecular level, it must have found its way into the environment, in the air, in the groundwater or in the soil. The solutions will not come fast and easy. At best, they will be long-term or not likely. One view is for meat-eaters to become vegetarians so that farmers would plant less nitrogen-dependent grains. Most of these become animal feed and mere sweeteners. Unfortunately, meat eaters have been increasing in the United States and in Asia instead of decreasing. Genetically engineering a symbiotic type of bacteria to grow grains with nitrogen-fixing capability came up as an idea (Fields).

Suggestions for Action

Better than planting less nitrogen-dependent grains and genetically engineering a special type of bacteria is to improve methods of crop rotation and land fertilization (Fields 2004). Farmers should add only the exact and right amount of fertilizer only when it is needed instead of over-fertilizing the land. Ultimately, the solution is to regulate reactive nitrogen and other pollutants. University of Virginia Environmental Sciences Professor James Galloway mentioned said that a lagoon system was one regulation. It was to decrease nitrogen-containing waste released in water by storing the water in the lagoons and aerated to release ammonia into the atmosphere. The sludge, which remained, was spread out into the fields as crop cover. However, this system would only transfer the NO into the atmosphere. An integrated management policy was needed. The problem that remained was the lack of knowledge on the rate of NO accumulation. What was certain was that reactive nitrogen compounds the already numerous environmental problems existing. The more NO released in the environment, the greater the accumulation rate and the greater the negative impacts or effects. Scientists have acknowledged that the ill consequences are varied and already widespread. They know something really effective must be done about it without turning socioeconomic systems upside down (Fields).

The average NO in homes even without combustion appliances has been measured as half of that outdoors (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2007). Levels in homes with gas stoves, kerosene heaters or un-vented gas space heaters exceed those in the outdoors. Responsible citizens could help or contribute to the overall objective of reducing reactive nitrogen dioxide exposure by observing these tips:

Vent NO2 sources in the outdoor. Make sure combustion appliances are properly installed, used and maintained most effectively. The same steps can be followed to reduce exposure to carbon dioxide, the other killer.

Adjust gas appliances properly.

Whenever possible, purchase a vented space heater when replacing an un-vented one.

Use the proper or appropriate fuel in kerosene space heaters.

Prefer the use of an exhaust fan, vented to outdoor levels, to gas stoves.

Open flues when using fireplaces.

Use only wood stoves with sizes meeting EPA emission standards. The doors of the wood stoves must fit tightly.

Only a trained professional should inspect, clean and tune up the central heating system every year. This system includes furnaces, flues and chimneys. All leaks should be promptly repaired. The car should not be left idle in the garage.


Belanger, K., et al. (2006). Association of indoor nitrogen dioxide exposure with respiratory symptoms in children with asthma. 10 pages. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine: American Thoracic Society

Bohan, S. (2007). Nitrogen overdose. 4 pages. Oakland Tribune: ANG Newspapers

Fields, S. (2004). Global nitrogen. cycling out of control. 9 pages. Environmental Health Perspectives: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Osenga, M (2005). EPA Proposes stationary diesel emissions regulations. 3 pages. Diesel Progress: Diesel and Gas Turbine…

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