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Impacts of acidic deposition Essay


There is an increasing danger of acidic deposition associated with the booming industrialization at the global level. Acidic deposition is considered as a form of threat to both the ecosystem and the human life. From an ecological perspective, acidic deposition can impose a harmful effect to the purity of water bodies and a threat to the survival of vegetation forms such as forests (Brimblecombe & Hiroshi, 2007).

The principal emissions that contribute to acidic precipitation are sulfur dioxide and the various oxides of nitrogen that are as result of the burning of the fossil fuels (Gunn, 1995). The diverse effects of acidic deposition to human health and environment cannot be underestimated. For the case of the environment, acidic depositions can result to the acidification of water bodies, impose damage to plants and harm aquatic life (Caroll, 1990).

The contributing factors towards acidic depositions can be attributed both natural factors, which are somewhat uncontrollable, and human factors such as factories, which form one of the largest contributors of the pollutants that result to acidic deposition (Environmental Protection Agency, 2008). The significant challenge is that economic sustenance in the current times requires the involvement in human activities that can impose acidic deposition.

Irrespective of this, addressing the problem imposed by the acidic deposition can be implemented through the adoption of effective human lifestyle that is characterized by a less reliance on the fossil fuels and an adoption of more renewable forms of energy (Environment Ontario, 2002).

Statement of aim

The purpose of this research paper is to investigate the major contributing factors to the increasing levels of acidic deposition. The paper will also discuss the barriers towards the resolution of the problem of the acidic deposition. In addition, the paper will also provide an overview of the various ways through which the issue of acidic deposition can be addressed.

Case study to analyze the impacts of acidic deposition

The Global Environmental Change associated with acidic deposition will be further illustrated using a case study: the environmental changes by heavy industries in the Greater Sudbury, Ontario.

This paper will evaluate the increasing levels of industrialization and then the outcome on the environment due to the economic boom associated with the increasing industrialization on the region. In addition, the paper will analyze the various ways through which the government was able to reverse the environmental impacts of acidic deposition in the area.

Overview of Acidic Deposition

Acidic deposition, sometimes known as acid rain usually takes place when the emissions because of the burning of the fossil fuels and emissions from industries are subjected to complex chemical processes within the atmosphere, which is then precipitated back to the earth as either wet or dry deposition.

Wet deposition is usually in the form of rainfall, cloud, snow or fog. Dry deposition is in form dry particles of gas or particles (Environmental Protection Agency, 2008). Rainfall and snow are usually acidic, but the case is considered severe when the pH levels are less than five.

The main chemical compositions that contribute to acidic deposition are SO2 and NOx. When the two compounds undergo a chemical reaction with water, oxygen, carbon dioxide and sunlight, the outcome is sulfuric acid and nitric acids, which are the core chemical agents that impose acidic deposition. Chemical compounds that are airborne can propagate over long distances; therefore, their effect can be spread over large areas and locations that are located at longer distances from the emission sources (Gunn, 1995).

Causes of acidic deposition

The causes of acidic deposition can be broadly classified into natural causes and human factors that result to the production of the chemical compounds that can cause acidic precipitation. The main natural factors that that contribute to the production of gases that can result to acidic precipitation are the emissions that come from the volcanoes.

A typical example of this scenario is the fumaroles that are from the Laguna Caliente crater of the Poas Volcano, which is responsible for high levels of acidic precipitation with a pH level of 2 (Jacobson, 2002). This can result to the clearing of the adjacent vegetation, cases of eye irritations and respiratory problems. Biological processes that take place on land and oceans can also result to acid producing chemical compounds.

The principal source of compounds that contain sulfur is dimethyl sulfide. Nitric acid is a major requirement for plant life and is normally generated by instances of electrical processes in the atmosphere; for instance, lightning. Glacial ice is also a source of acidic deposits. In addition, soils found in coniferous forests have been found be acidic naturally (Keller et al, 1977).

Human activity is also major contributing factor to the production of acid generating compounds in the atmosphere. The most form of pollution that causes acidic precipitation is from coal power plants. In fact, the pollutants from factories can cause acidic precipitation over a large area of geographical scope because the emissions are transported to far regions before being precipitated as rain.

Another human activity that plays a significant role in the production of acidic nitrogen compounds to the atmosphere is livestock production, owing to the fact that it a major source of ammonia, which contributes majorly towards the availability of acid rain (Environmental Protection Agency, 2008).

It is arguably evident that the both human and nature are responsible for the causation of acidic deposition. However, it is estimated that anthropogenic factors account for twice of the amount of the airborne acid (Environment Ontario, 2002). The underlying argument is that human population constitutes of approximately two thirds of the anthropogenic population, implying that humans have the ability to minimize the impacts of acidic deposition (Tamra & Reyes, 2009).

Effects of Acidic deposition

Acidic deposition has adverse effects on the water bodies, soils, forests and other vegetation, aquatic life, spoiling building and severe effects on human health. The impacts of the acidic deposition are normally evident around areas that are characterized by intense industrialization. The following are some of the adverse effects of acidic deposition to the environment and human life (Environmental Protection Agency, 2008).

Acidic deposition is responsible for having adverse effects on the aquatic life and altering the chemical composition of surface waters. Low pH values and high amounts of aluminum in surface waters are because of acidic deposition, which can be a threat to marine life.

A pH that is less than 5 makes it difficult to aquatic life and result to a reduction in the biodiversity of the water bodies as more acidic conditions are induced. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (2008), acidic deposition is responsible for about 75 per cent of the acidic lakes and 50 per cent of streams that are acidic in nature.

The second effect of acidic deposition is that it affects the chemical composition of soils and the soil biology. Microorganisms in the soil that cannot tolerate low levels of pH are killed by acidic deposition, which in turn affects soil nutrition and its ability to host plants and microorganisms.

This is a possible explanation why forests are gradually facing extinction in industrialized regions. This is because acidic deposition causes the production of toxic aluminum and a reduction in the levels of calcium, resulting to tree growth that is stunted. In addition, only species that can tolerate high acidity levels can survive in soils that are subjected to acid rain (Environmental Protection Agency, 2008).

A reduction in the amounts of forests due to acidic deposition implies that there will be more carbon dioxide and less oxygen in the atmosphere, resulting to an imbalance in the atmosphere and the prospects of global warming. Chemicals that are airborne are usually toxic are harmful to the health of animals that rely in the air in the atmosphere for survival.

Acid deposition also affects the human health by imposing respiratory problems that are evident through lung irritation because of dry acidic deposits. Eye irritations are also an effect of acidic deposits. Buildings and other structures are vulnerable to corrosion from acidic deposits (Environment Ontario, 2002).

It is projected that a 50 percent reduction in the emissions that are responsible for the production of oxides of nitrogen and sulfur dioxide will be enough to facilitate the restoration of the environmental equilibrium. This goal is difficult to realize without the implementation of appropriate strategies and approaches.

Impacts of acidic deposition imposed by the environmental changes by heavy industries in the greater sudbury, Ontario


Air quality in has been a subject of contention in the City of Greater Sudbury due to the fact that the city is one of largest metal smelting places in the world. The City of Greater Sudbury is famous for its high emissions of sulfur dioxide, which is greatly associated with acidic deposition (Environment Ontario, 2002).

The extent to which the landscape of the area has been damaged by acidic deposition and the efforts adopted by the government of Ontario and industry makes the City of Greater Sudbury a perfect case study for understanding the impacts of acidic deposition and the effectiveness of the recovery process (Environment Ontario, 2002).

Over the course of its existence, the city has been a perfect example of the extent to which human activities can result to acid deposition and its aftermath as evident by instances of industrial barrens, lakes that have been damaged by acid deposition and the tallest super tack in the world being found in the area. Despite of this, environmental recovery has been attempted with the primary intention of restoring the air quality in the City of Greater Sudbury. The following section outlines the impacts of acid deposition in the area (Keller et al, 1977).

Impacts of acid deposition in the city of Greater Sudbury

The chemical composition of the lakes found in the city of Greater Sudbury is a clear indication of the level through increased industrialization imposes acidic deposition and the respective impact on the water bodies of the adjacent environs. The most significant industrial stress that the industries found in the city impose on the water bodies are increased erosion, acidic deposition and cases of metal contamination, which are significantly attributed to the high number of mining and logging factories in the region.

As a result, acidic deposition in the city is responsible for affecting the water quality and aquatic life in the lakes that are found within the city. A notable impact of acidic deposition in the area is that it increases the acidic levels of the surface water, which in turn raises the solubility of toxic metals and affect the organic composition of the soils, making it difficult for the soil in the region to sustain vegetation in order to foster a balance in the atmosphere.

Acid deposition in the area has also affected the regenerative capability of vegetation in the area. The City of Greater Sudbury receives rain that has acidity levels that are twice the amount that forests can withstand. The outcome of this is forest depletion in the city because acid deposition has a significant effect on the soil nutrients. The impacts of acid deposition can be reversed, although they may take a long time to restore the acidity levels that are not harmful for the sustenance of an ecosystem (Tamra & Reyes, 2009).

The approach identified to address Acidic deposition

The identified plan of approach towards addressing the issue of acidic deposition is through fostering the adoption of more renewable forms of energy, so that that there will be minimal reliance on fossil fuel, which are major contributors of the sulfur dioxide and the oxides of nitrogen to the environment.

In addition, it is important to regulate the amount and the kind of emissions that factories emit to the environment. Other strategies that can be adopted in order to address acidic deposition include coal washing with the objective of elimination of sulfur before combustion, the use of alternative power plants and the overall reduction in the consumption of energy (Gunn, 1995).

The outcome of the implementation of the above strategy is the containment of the waste from factories, which involves the use of water treatment strategies in order to reduce the level of metal concentrations and acidity levels before industrial water is released to the environment. With this respect, it is the responsibility of local authorities and the obligation of such factories to ensure that they adopt water treatment plans to address the issues that are likely to increase acid deposition.

Environmental management strategies are not effective without the aspect of public awareness and their involvement towards the same. Public awareness plays an important role in ensuring that the people have an understanding of the environmental stress regarding the air and water quality of their environment. As such, local authorities must implement programs that encourage the people to be more cautious towards the importance of environmental awareness (Gunn, 1995).

Analysis of the adopted strategy

The methods outlined in the plan of approach for addressing the problem of acidic deposition are viable and can be used for reducing the amount of acid-contributing substances in the atmosphere. However, they all have their strengths and limitations, and the effectiveness of the methods depends on the tradeoff between their advantages and disadvantages.

Coal washing with the aim of removing sulfur prior to combustion is vital in the elimination of acidic deposition, has a significant challenge in the sense that it results to the generation of polluted water. On the hand, using fuel alternatives is an expensive strategy and requires adequate time for its effective implementation. Any approach that requires a reduction in energy consumption and adoption of alternative forms of energy requires a complete overhaul of the energy policies in Canada.

However, the basic argument is that a reduction in energy consumption, adoption of renewable sources of energy as alternative forms of energy combined with the strategy of emissions control is the best approach towards the elimination of human factors that result to acid deposition. In addition, it is important that new solutions have to be developed constantly to address the increasing problem of acid deposition (Caroll, 1990).


Acidic deposition is an increasing global environmental change that requires the deployment of appropriate strategies in order to contain its impacts. It is arguably evident that the acidic deposition affects the chemical composition of the ecosystem, threatens the sustenance of the aquatic life, forests, and the biological and chemical composition of the soil and affects human health.

It is also notable that human activities are a major contributing factor towards acidic deposition; as such, any approaches that should be implemented to contain acidic deposition should be centered towards the regulation of human activities. The suggested approaches include the adoption of alternative forms of energy that are renewable, reduction of energy consumption and increasing people awareness towards environmental conservation.


Brimblecombe, P., & Hiroshi, H. (2007). Acid Rain – Deposition to Recovery. New York: Springer.

Caroll, E. J. (1990). International environmental diplomacy: the management and resolution of transfrontier environmental problems. New York: CUP Archive.

Environment Ontario. (2002). Air Quality in Ontario, 2001 Report. Ontario: Environment Ontario.

Environmental Protection Agency. (2008). Effects of Acid Rain – Surface Waters and Aquatic Animals. Retrieved from

Gunn, J. (1995). REstoration and Recovery of an industrial region, Progress in restoring the damaged landscape near Sudbury, canada. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Jacobson, M. Z. (2002). Atmospheric pollution: history, science, and regulation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Keller, W., Pitblado, R. J., & Conroy, N. I. (1977). Water Quality Improvements in the Sudbury, Ontario, Canada area Related to Reduced Smelter Emissions. Water, Air and Soil Pollution , 31 (3-4), 765-774.

Tamra, G., & Reyes, O. (2009). Carbon trdaing How it works and why it fails. Critical currents , 7, 10-56.

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