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What Is NOx and Is It Dangerous?

    NOx or nitrogen oxides have been around for years, but these gases hit headline news  when the Dieselgate scandal broke in September 2015.

    The Dieselgate scandal, also known as the emissions scandal, started with just one car manufacturer accused of installing defeat devices in their vehicles – Volkswagen. Over the years, however, the list of manufacturers has expanded. 

    In 2016, the Mercedes Benz emissions scandal made headlines after Mercedes-Benz car owners in the U.S. filed a class-action lawsuit against the German car maker because of defeat devices, the same cheat software the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found in VW diesel vehicles. These devices are used to manipulate emissions lab tests. Although the company has paid fines, Mercedes claims, and recalled cars, its parent company Daimler continues to deny the allegations.

    Other manufacturers that were eventually added to the list include BMW, Alfa Romeo, Peugeot, Renault, Ford, Nissan, Suzuki, Citroën, and Vauxhall.

    The allegations of increased NOx emissions

    The Dieselgate car manufacturers are accused of deceiving their customers because the defeat device they installed in their vehicles faked the amount of diesel emissions during tests. The cheat software detected when a lab test was about to happen and it automatically lowered emissions levels to within the legal limit. When taken away from  the lab and driven in real-world conditions, on the road, the vehicles emitted NOx way above the safe levels. 

    Since the manufacturers marketed their vehicles as environment-friendly alternatives, this is tantamount to lying to car owners. All the while the drivers thought they were helping reduce air pollution when in fact, they contributed a substantial amount of toxic gases each time they went out and drove their cars.

    The NOx gas emitted by vehicles is dangerous not only for the environment but for humans as well.

    What is NOx and why is it dangerous?

    NOx, short for nitrogen oxides, are poisonous gases that result from oxygen and nitrogen combustion at high temperatures and high-pressure environments. It has nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which can be extremely poisonous.

    The main sources of nitrogen oxides are industrial processes like cement-making and power generation, and man-made sources such as boats, tractors, trucks, and cars. Lightning, bacterial activity, and volcanic activity can also produce NOx.

    NOx emissions form smog and acid rain. When they are exposed to sunlight and react with volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides produce ground-level ozone, which can result in the formation of toxic components.

    Nitrogen oxides are also responsible for creating PM or particulate matter, which is composed of very small liquid or solid droplets that are easily inhaled. These particles go deep into your bloodstream and lungs. The fine particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers are known as PM2.5 and have serious effects on human health.

    What makes NOx emissions even more dangerous is that they can travel long distances if they get to the troposphere in a day’s time. As such, these toxic gases can travel to continents in more or less five to ten days. 

    Effects on the environment and human health

    As mentioned above, NOx produces smog, acid rain, ground-level ozone, and particulate matter. All these are pollutants that make the air around you more toxic and dangerous. These elements can also cause certain health issues.

    Exposure to NOx emissions, regardless of the amount or volume, can lead to reduced lung function, breathing problems, eye irritation, headaches, corroded teeth, and loss of appetite. In serious cases, nitrogen oxides can cause lung damage and cardiovascular-related health issues. 

    Several studies have also indicated that NOx emissions can affect one’s mental health and may cause depression and anxiety.

    Additionally, when PM2.5 travels deep into the lungs, it can lead to chronic breathing problems and cancer. In individuals with serious lung problems and cardiovascular issues, it can lead to premature death. A sad example of this is the case of Ella Kissi-Debrah, the nine-year-old who died because of air pollution in the UK.

    Ella and her mother Rosamund regularly passed through an area with heavy air pollution on their way to school. This led to months of hospital visits and seizures for Ella. She died of severe asthma and acute respiratory failure in February 2013. After an investigation, the coroner ruled that air pollution was a significant contributor to her asthma, which caused her death.

    Aside from affecting human health, nitrogen oxides also harm our ecosystems as they damage vegetation and have devastating effects on plants and animals.

    How you can reduce NOx emissions

    If you have a vehicle affected by the diesel emission scandal, contact your manufacturer. Most car makers send out recall notices to affected car owners, so you should expect to receive one if your vehicle is verified to have been fitted with a defeat device. 

    Your next step is to get in touch with a team of emissions experts who can help you file a diesel compensation claim. Filing a claim is the best way to get back what your manufacturer stole from you when they deceived you into buying a car with high NOx emissions. An experienced team such as the ones at will help you go through the process and guide you every step of the way.