An Analysis of the Causes, Effects and Prevention of Acid Rain

Acid rain is a type of precipitation with high acidity caused by the polluted atmosphere. It comes down in different types of precipitation such as: rain, snow. hail, or sleet. Acid rain is gradually wearing down our environment, affecting countries in almost every continent.

One of the main causes of acid rain is sulphur dioxide. Natural sources which gives out these gases are volcanoes, sea spray, rotting vegetation and plankton. However, the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil causes approximately half of the emissions of this gas in the world. When sulphur dioxide reaches the atmosphere, it oxidizes to first form a sulphate ion. It then becomes sulphuric acid as it joins with hydrogen atoms in the air and falls back down to earth.
Nitric oxide and nitric dioxide are also components of acid rain. Its mainly caused by exhaust fumes. Like sulphur dioxide, the nitrogen oxides rise into the atmosphere and are oxidized in clouds to form nitric acid.

One of the most serious impacts of acid precipitation is on forests and soils. A lot of damages are being done when the sulphuric acid falls onto the earth as rain. All the nutrients in the soils are washed away making it hard for some plants to grow. The presence of nitrogen oxide and nitric oxide also can force trees to grow even though they do not have the necessary nutrients. The trees are sometimes forced to grow during late autumn when it is actually the time for them to prepare for severe winter weather.

One of the direct effects of acid rain is on lakes and the whole aquatic ecosystems. There are several ways the acidic chemicals can enter the lakes. Some exists as dry particles in the air while others enter the lakes as wet particles such as rain, snow, sleet, hail, dew, or fog. The presence of acid and chemicals in the lake causes a sudden change in the pH of the lakes. The aquatic ecosystem has no time to adjust to this sudden change. Also, many aquatic species lay their eggs in the water to hatch and the pH change is dangerous because the acids can cause serious damages in their young. The sulphuric acid in the water also affects the fishes in the lake. Sulphuric acid interferes with the fish's ability to take in oxygen, salt, and nutrients needed to stay alive. Fishes aren't the only aquatic species being harmed, other creatures living in lakes also take punishments.

Acid particles are also threat to buildings and statues. Corrosion will occur when acids are deposited onto it. For example, the capitol building in Ottawa has been disintegrating because of excess sulphur dioxide in the atomosphere. Limestone and marble turn to a crumbling substance called gypsum upon contact with the acid, which explains the corrosion of buildings and statues. The bridge of the Ohio River collapsed killing 46 people and the reason for its collaps was corrosion due to acid rain. A lot of money have been spent repairing the corrosive damages done by acid rain.

Acid rain also damages materials such as fabrics. For example, flags hanged are being "eaten away" by the acidic chemicals in the precipitation. Books and old art works that are centuries old are also being affected. Nevertheless, how does all of this affect humans?

Acid rain give rise to respiratory problems such as asthma, dry coughs, headaches, eye, nose and throat irritations to humans. An indirect effect of acid precipitation on humans is that the toxic metals dissolved in the water are absorbed in fruits, vegetables, and in the tissues of animals. Although these toxic metals do not directly affect the animals, they have serious effects on humans during consumption. For example, mercury that accumulate in the organs and tissues of the animals has been linked with brain damage in children as well as nerve disorders, brain damage, and death. Also, aluminum has been associated with kidney problems and, was also suspected to be related to Alzheimer's disease.

After learning about all that that are being affected by acid rain, are their any solutions to this problem? Acid pollution is a serious problem, but there are many ways that can help bring it under control. One of the simplest ways is to clean coal before it is burned. By doing this, sulfurs can be taken out. The way fuels are burned can also be controlled to reduce the amount of sulfur and nitrogen oxides they release. "Fluidized bed combustion" is a technique used to take out sulfur. "Because nitrogen oxides are formed by burning fuels reacting with nitrogen in the air, they can be reduced by lowering the combustion temperature and reducing the time air stays in the combustion chamber."

Not only can acid pollution be reduced by combustion, filtering the smoke and gases given off by power stations, factories, and cars can also help reduce it. Chemicals can be used to clean exhaust gases given off by factories. Gases given off by cars and trucks can be cleaned by filters called, "catalytic converters," to reduce the amount of gas given off. Finally, another way of reducing acid pollution is by conserving energy. "Every time we turn on an electric light switch, we are helping to create acid rain." Fossil Fuels are burned when you turn on the lights, which causes chemicals to be released in our atmosphere resulting in ACID RAIN.