Nitrogen Dioxide

What is Nitrogen Dioxide?

Nitrogen dioxide (chemical formula: NO₂), is a non-flammable liquified gas that is a reddish brown in colour (as a liquid, it is yellow). It has a pungent odour and is extremely poisonous and corrosive. 1% of nitrogen dioxide found in our cities is produced by lightning, plants, soil and water. 

What is Nitrogen Dioxide used for?

Nitrogen dioxide is used as a catalyst in certain oxidation reactions, as an inhibitor to prevent polymerisation of acrylates during distillation, as a nitrating agent for organic compounds/explosives and as an oxidising agent. Other uses of nitrogen dioxide include being used as a rocket fuel, as an agent to bleach flour, the manufacturing of liquid explosives and for increasing the strength of wet paper.

Rocket fuel is one of the many uses of nitrogen dioxide 
Rocket fuel is one of nitrogen dioxides many uses 

Nitrogen Dioxide Hazards

The routes of exposure for nitrogen dioxide include inhalation and skin and eye contact. Ingestion is considered an unlikely route of entry due to its gaseous state. 

Inhalation of nitrogen dioxide can be lethal in severe cases. Symptoms of inhalation include, mild irritation of the upper respiratory tract, coughing, sore throat, conjuntivitis, headache, vertigo, nausea, rhinitis, loss of consciousness, chest tightness, dizziness, vomiting and fatigue. Depending on the severity of the exposure, symptoms can range from lasting a few hours, to up to 30 hours after the event. 

Skin exposure to nitrogen dioxide may result in chemical burns or frostbite. Other harmful effects may result following entry into the bloodstream, so it is important that the skin is inspected for open cuts or wounds prior to handling the chemical. 

Direct eye exposure to the chemical can cause chemical burns. Nitrogen dioxide vapours and mists can be extremely irritating, producing severe ocular lesions in animals. Vapours can also cause frostbite. 

Nitrogen Dioxide Safety

If inhaled, remove the patient from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source. Lay the patient down and ensure they are kept warm and rested. If the patient is not breathing and you are qualified to do so, perform CPR, preferably with a bag-valve mask device. Continue to monitor the patient’s pulse and breathing. Seek medical attention immediately, no matter the concentration of exposure.

In the event of skin exposure, remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories and flush the affected area with plenty of running water. In cases of frost-bite, move the patient into warmth before thawing the affected skin and bath the area in lukewarm water—do not apply hot water or radiant heat. Seek medical attention.

If exposed to the eyes, the patient should hold open their eyelids as wide as possible for the chemical to evaporate and then flush the eyes out with fresh running water, remembering to wash under the eyelids. Removal of contact lenses should only be done by a skilled individual. Seek medical attention.

Nitrogen Dioxide Safety Handling

Emergency eye wash fountains and safety showers should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical and there should always be adequate ventilation to remove or dilute any air contaminants (install local exhaust if necessary). 

The PPE recommended when handling nitrogen dioxide includes chemical goggles, full face shields, neoprene gloves, half to full face filter type respirators, PVC aprons/protective suits, non-static clothing, overalls and non-sparking safety footwear. 

As one of the most poisonous gases, it is important you familiarise yourself with the risks of handling nitrogen dioxide. Read a copy of the SDS before you handl this chemical. Click here for a trial of our SDS Management Software or contact us at for more information about our chemicals management solutions. 

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