Exposure to the two most common nitrogen oxides, nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, can cause death, decreased fertility and genetic mutations. Tissue swelling, headaches and dizziness are common side effects when exposed to high levels of nitrogen oxides. Studies show that repeated exposure can lead to scarring.
People exposed to nitrogen oxides over a long period may experience respiratory issues and reduced lung function that can limit an active lifestyle. Those with asthma are more vulnerable to the effects of these chemicals. Nitrogen oxides are created when fuel is combusted at high temperatures. They are commonly found in polluted air and are common near coal-burning power plants and anywhere with a large volume of vehicle traffic. Wood burning stoves, kerosene heaters and gas stoves also produce nitrogen oxides.
At room temperature, nitrogen dioxide can be colorless or brown and have a strong odor. When it's heated above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, nitrogen dioxide takes on a reddish-brown color. Nitric oxide has a colorless to brown tint and has a sweet odor. When nitrogen oxides mix with some other chemicals in the presence of sunlight, they can create ground-level ozone. Nitrogen oxides can cause acid rain that eventually enters lakes and streams. High levels of nitrogen are often responsible for an increase in algae and weeds.