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Acid rain is a very serious environmental problem that exists today because of high-energy consumption in the industrial world. Acid rain is snow, fog, or rain that has been polluted by acid in the atmosphere. Rain is naturally acidic because carbon dioxide, found normally in the earth’s atmosphere, reacts with water to form carbonic acid. While “pure” rain’s acidity is pH 5.6-5.7, actual pH readings vary from place to place depending upon the type and amount of other gases present in the air, such as sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxides.
Acid rain is observed when sulfur dioxide (SO ) and Nitrogen oxide (NO ) are released into the atmosphere and mix with moisture in the air. Industrial processes and the burning of fossil fuels such as coal-fired power generators and ore smelting are the main culprits for the release of sulfur dioxide. Nitrogen oxide comes into the atmosphere in harmful amounts by the combustion of fuels in vehicles, furnaces (residential and industrial), and boilers.
These are the main causes of acid rain. The formation of acid rain happens when acidic compounds, mainly SO and NO are released into the atmosphere. The wind then carries the acidic compounds, both wet and dry, across land and water, sometimes, hundreds of kilometers from where the acid was produced. (Mittelstaedt, 2000) With the help of sunlight, the gases react in the atmosphere with water, oxygen, and other chemicals to form various acidic compounds in the atmosphere. The result is acid rain that falls back onto the earth by rain or dry surface exposure.
Acid rain is a major problem in areas of high industrial productivity especially coal-generated power stations and high transportation problems. Places such as Germany, Japan, China, Parts of Russia, Eastern Europe, eastern sides of Canada, and North-east America. The effects of acid rain in an area are dependant on the type of bedrock that a continent has. The more alkaline bedrock is the more the continent can ‘buffer’ the acid rain i.e. in Canada, Ontario and Quebec has no natural protection to acid rain and gets a lot of damage from acid rain. Acid rain has a serious effect on the natural and physical aspects of the environment. (Webber, 2003).
The acidification of lakes and rivers has a huge effect on the ecosystem and biodiversity that is natural and beautiful around us. Acid rain is powerful enough to damage trees, change the conditions of animals, and even affect the reproduction of insects and small mammals. While acid rain is known to cause large amounts of damage to the natural environment its effects on buildings are often overlooked. (Mahoney, 2002).
In fact, acid rain is a major factor in the decay of buildings, structures, and paints especially heritage monuments. Acid rain has been blamed for visibility damage and cases of respiratory problems such as bronchitis and asthma. The effects of acid rain are extensive and are becoming a more serious issue in today’s society. Controlling the problem of acid rain is an issue that everyone has to work together on. Acid rain travels so everyone is affected. To fix the problem of acid rain we have to first understand the causes and effects of acid rain and make the public aware of the issues that come with acid rain.
Water acidification has the least to do with acid rain and the whole thing to do pertains to soil chemistry, land use, and geology. Streams, lakes, and other aquatic volumes get over 90 percent of their water, in no way from rain rather from the facade surfeit that is filtered initially through quite acidic plane soils and macrobiotic substance and then through bedrock, which is inclined to defuse that acidity.
In New England and the Catskill region overall, 15 percent of lakes show evidence of such traits. While on the other hand, eighty-three percent of the affected lakes have been found acidic due to acid deposition. As such, the other 17 percent are most likely acidic in terms of natural circumstances but have been developed more acidic because of acid deposition. (Webber, 2003)
Mahoney J. ( 2002). “Solving the Acid Rain Problem: Options and Implications.” Luncheon address for the Conference, Chicago, IL.
Mittelstaedt, M. (2000) “Ontario Moves to Cut Smog, Acid Rain,” The Globe and Mail, p. A8.
Webber, D. (2003). Equitably reducing trans-boundary causes of acid rain. In E. J. Yanarella & R. H. Ihara (Eds.), The acid rain debate (pp. 219–238). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.