An Essay on Acid Rain on a Global Scale

Acidic deposition, formally known as acid-rain, is a rapidly growing threat not just in the United States, but around the globe as well. Acid-rain first became a prominent issue around the 1970's when forests surrounding areas affected by the industrialization movement showed severe signs of deterioration. Most people do not understand the severity of this issue and just brush it off like any other everyday problem. However, acid-rain comes equipped with a number of drawbacks and disadvantages. “Acid-rain lies amongst the most damaging environmental factors and has a wide range of victims” (Sabir). We are not the only ones that are affected by this. After precipitation of acid-rain, it is able to flow into our lakes, streams, groundwater and our drinking water, where it harms other aquatic and terrestrial species. The affects of acid-rain can be most visible in aquatic environments.

“Human activities are changing the water chemistry of many streams and rivers in the Eastern U.S., with consequences for water supplies and aquatic life” (Eastern U.S Water).  Some species of plants and animals are able to withstand the harmful affects of acid-rain, but for other species it has already taken its toll on them. It has lessened the fish population and completely eliminated others, reducing biodiversity in the water.  This hazard causes a cycle, as it is then collected by the process of condensation, and then deposited back onto the Earth's soil. These processes adversely affect the global population, as we all contribute to the expansion of it:

Pollution in core sector industries in a serious menace. It is not just confined to anyone's backyard anymore. A very recent news report mentions the findings of a new study how China is 'exporting' pollution to the United States across the Pacific Ocean. On some days, acid rain-inducing sulphate pollution from the burning of fossil fuels in China can account for as much as a quarter of sulphate pollution in the western United States.   (IFF Group Filtering)

Clearly, acid-rain is a huge problem that enough people aren't sufficiently educated on. Pollution in the United States and China can travel around the globe, harming anyone or anything in its path. Pollution can be caused by a number of things, including landfills, automobile emissions, factory emissions and emissions from coal-mining. Factory and car emissions are among the most abundant, as they are in constant use on a daily basis. Even a simple drive from work to home is enough to contribute to this phenomenon. However, among the deadliest is our landfills. “Burning of garbage and landfills cause some of the most gaseous threats in our ecosystem” (Sabir). Landfills are a huge factor when it comes to acid rain. Landfills are so abundant today because of how much we waste. Anything from food to clothes, whatever is no longer a necessity to us is just thrown in the garbage can and sent to a landfill. When one landfill runs out of space, a new one is formed in order to store our waste elsewhere. Landfills are an absolute disaster, leading to one problem after the other. “Landfills are able to pollute groundwater by adding foreign materials which is later converted into acid-rain” (Sabir).  Acid-rain doesn't just affect our water and forests, it affects our landmarks and structures just as much. Structures that are made of limestone, calcium carbonate, often show considerable amounts of deterioration. This is due to the reaction that takes place between the acid rain and the calcium. Calcium is displaced by hydrogen ions in the water, forming a new compound called carbonic acid. Instantaneously, this newly formed compound decomposes into water and carbon dioxide, washing away the calcium that constituted the structure. Over time, the limestone will gradually deteriorate.

Limestone structures aren't the only things being destroyed by calcium depletionSoil in forests have showed great signs of calcium depletion, which is an essential nutrient for tree growth:

According to a paper published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters present findings from a 15-year study of trees in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire. In 1999, 40 tonnes of calcium pellets were dispersed by helicopter over a 12-hectare section of the forest in which the trees showed declining growth rates and a high rate of unexpected deaths. Previous soft analysis had showed that it had half the normal level of calcium. (Yang)

Studies and experimental procedures have been conducted to understand the severity of this problem. It is evident now that acid rain is generally extremely harmful to trees, but these experiments and studies attempt to provide a link to other problems that may stem from acid-rain, such as chronic depletion of calcium. Researches discovered that areas affected by acid-rain, when treated with calcium, grew more healthily, producing more wood and leaves. Compared to affected nearby trees, which were studied in a control site. “Adding calcium to the soil can help to reverse the decades-long decline of forests damaged by acid rain” (Rustad).

So, what positive effects may stem from a national disaster such as this one may ask?  Many researchers, universities, activists, and the government have banded together in order to reverse some of the devastating effects of acid-rain pollution. The government has successfully enacted many rules and regulations in order to control the amount of pollution that enters the atmosphere. Some of these acts include the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. The Clean Air Act developed a number of rules and regulations that enforced the protection of the public to hazardous airborne contaminants. It's still in effect today helping to protect us from pollutants that are known to negatively affect human health. The Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act were implemented together to ensure quality public drinking water and its safety for the public. These three acts are mostly overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In order to solve this acid-rain crisis, things are being done on both a national and a global level.  Fishery biologists have discovered a new method to treating freshwater lakes and streams that have been affected by acid-rain pollution, a method called liming.

“Usually, acidic waters are treated by adding limestone (CaCO3) or lime (Ca[OH]2),process analogous to a whole-lake titration to raise pH” (Freedman). This works by neutralizing any acidifying substance in the water and turning it back into water. The acid is driven off by carbon dioxide and released into the atmosphere. This is also a very effective method when it comes to soil and the health of trees by adding calcium back into the soil. Liming helps to rebuild aquatic habitats for fish that were destroyed by acid-rain. Certain species of fish that were once completely killed off locally can return to their natural habitat once treated by liming.  Liming has been tested in regions all over the world in an attempt to reverse the biological damage of this phenomenon. “In some parts of Scandinavia liming has been used extensively to mitigate damages of acidification. About 5,000 water bodies had been limed in Sweden, mostly with limestone. In the early 1990s there was a program introduced to 'lime' 800 acidic lakes in the Adirondack region of New York” (Freedman). If this idea becomes a reality, there is no telling what possibilities there will be for the future. Acid-rain pollution may become a problem of the past; this may be the key solution to this never-ending complication.

 Clearly acid-rain is a problem that can no longer be ignored. Not enough money, time and research goes into this problem. More of these need to be invested into this problem in order to find a lasting solution. Without a lasting solution, this could affect the well-being of your home, your health and the food you'll be able to provide for your families. If this problem keeps getting overlooked, there will be no saying what other possible problems society may face. Acid-rain is a threat and must be solved immediately.        

Works Cited

  1. "Eastern US Water Supplies Threatened By a Legacy of Acid Rain." Space Daily 19 Sept.    2013. General OneFile. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.
  2. Freedman, Bill. "Acid Rain." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. Ed. K. Lee Lerner and      Brenda Wilmoth Lerner. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 18-25. General             OneFile. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.
  3. "IFF Group Filtering Out Pollution." Industrial Products Finder 21 Feb. 2014. General          OneFile. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.
  4. Rustad, Harley. "Calcium Key To Restoring Forests Damaged By Acid Rain."             Geographical Nov. 2013: 10. General OneFile. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.
  5. Sabir, Sabeeh-ur-Rasool. "Acid Rain; A Threat To Ecosystem." Technology Times 12 Jan.     2014. General OneFile. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.
  6. Yang, Sarah. "Calcium Key To Restoring Acid Rain-Damaged Forests." Space Daily 4 Oct. 2013. General OneFile. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.