What is the difference between nitrogen and CO2


Nitrogen is a chemical element and CO2 is a chemical compound. A chemical element can no longer be split. This is different with CO2, which is a compound of the element carbon (the letter C) with two elements oxygen (the letter O). O2 means two elements oxygen. Hence the name carbon dioxide. All elements that occur in the world are in the so-called periodic table.

What is nitrogen

All elements in the periodic table have one or two letters, also called a symbol, and also each have a number. It Nitrogen's symbol is N and its atomic number is 7. The periodic table contains a total of 118 elements, divided into 18 columns. Column 15 is the nitrogen group, of which nitrogen is the lightest element. Nitrogen is biologically quite important as part of proteins and nucleic acids. Its normal appearance is as N2 (molecular nitrogen), which is gaseous at room temperature. Talking about air pollution, this mainly concerns ammonia and nitrogen oxide. The nitrogen precipitation is the sum of the two.


Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen with hydrogen and has the formula NH3. So symbol N for one element nitrogen and two elements hydrogen (letter H). Ammonia is corrosive to the skin, eyes and mucous membranes, and is environmentally hazardous. You can also read that on a bottle of household ammonia bought in a supermarket. Inhalation and swallowing is very dangerous. The result is pulmonary edema and perforation of the stomach and esophagus. In addition, there is a risk of explosion if it is released in large quantities. Ammonia is released mainly by mixing the manure and urine of pigs, cows and chickens. If a railroad car full of ammonia bursts open, many people can die within a square kilometer. The number will depend partly on the population density and the wind.

Nitrogen Dioxide

Nitrogen dioxide has the chemical formula NO2 and thus consists of one element nitrogen and two elements oxygen. It occurs as a poisonous reddish-brown gas. Nitrogen emissions are mainly due to exhaust gases that traffic and industry emit into the air. That is an important problem with nitrogen. That is why, as one of the measures against nitrogen, the government promotes the use of electric cars, among other things.

TNO on nitrogen

What does TNO say about nitrogen in the Netherlands:

  • Our emissions are among the highest in the world.
  • Relatively speaking, we are Europe's largest emitter.
  • Agriculture counts towards 45%. 35% comes from abroad. Road traffic, industry, offices and households take care of the rest.
  • Net we are one of Europe's largest exporters.
  • Too much nitrogen has a negative effect on our nature and biodiversity. Too much nitrogen settles in 72% of our nature reserves.
  • So much nitrogen acidifies the soil, from which minerals disappear. Trees die and certain plant species, which in turn are important for birds and insects.
  • Nitrogen costs us an average of 4 months of our lives.

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