Acid Rains – Serious Problem with Disastrous Effects

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Our environment has been suffering from many problems that have plaguedearth for years. These problems cannot be ignored or it might havecatastrophic results on our environment. Acid rain is a wide spread termused to describe all forms of acid precipitation, rain snow and dust. Acidrain is a serious problem with disastrous effects and this problem isincreasing each day. It causes grave damage to our natural wild and aquaticlife and can also have an adverse effect on human life.

It causes fish and plants to die in waters. As well it causes harm to ourown race as well, because we eat these fish, drink this water and eat theseplants. However acid rain on its own is not the biggest problem. It causesmany other problems such as aluminum poisoning. As Acid rain is a seriousproblem with disastrous effects, each day this serious problem increases,this issue should be met head on and solved before it is too late.

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This report focuses on what is acid rain, what cause acid, what are theeffect of acid rain and try to find how to reduce and eliminate Acid raincauses.

According to “acid rain and the facts” (2002, p1) “acid rain is rain, snowor fog that is polluted by acid in the atmosphere causing damages to theenvironment “, Acid rain is a broad term used to describe several ways thatacids fall out of the atmosphere. A more precise term is acid deposition,which has two parts: wet and dry.

Wet deposition refers to acidic rain, fog, and snow. As this acidic waterflows over and through the ground, it effects a variety of plants andanimals. The strength of the effects depend on many factors, including thelevel of acid in the water, the chemistry and buffering capacity of thesoils involved, and the types of fish, trees, and other living life thatrely on the water.

Dry deposition refers to acidic gases and particles. About half of theacidity in the atmosphere falls back to earth through dry deposition. Thewind then blows these acidic particles and gases onto buildings, cars,homes, and trees. However, dry deposited gases and particles can be washedfrom trees and other surfaces by rainstorms. When that happens, the runoffwater adds those acids to the acid rain, making the combination more acidicthan the falling rain alone.

History of Acid rainDuring the 1970s many countries started to notice changes in fishpopulations in lakes and damages to certain trees. It was found that thehigh acidity levels in the lakes, rivers, bays and streams caused it. Acidrain was identified to be the major cause of the changes and the damages inthose environments. The USA,Germany,Czechoslovakia,Netherlands,Switzerland and Australia are countries that have been affected by acidrain, however, it has also become a problem for Japan, China and SoutheastAsia.

“Ph is measured from Zero to fourteen. On the alkaline side, seawater isaround 8 and at the acidic end Orange juice and soft drinks are around PH2or 3. Unpolluted rainwater should measure at around PH 5 and anymeasurement under 5 would be considered Acid Rain. As Australia is sparselypopulated, its cities are far apart and it has no neighbors, the readingsare not very high.

In areas where there are smelters and power stationshowever, the problem of acid rain is far greater. The major effects are onforests and rivers and lakes, where the acid rain causes the soil or waterto be so acidified that trees won’t grow or in fact they can even diecompletely and rivers and lakes they can become so acidic that they won’tsupport any sort of aquatic life” (Bubenick, 1984)

Cars and trucks are the main sources for the nitric acid that develops intoacid rain. Power generating plants, industrial, commercial and residentialfuel combustion together contributes to most of the rest in the air. Thesulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides can be transformed into sulphuric acidand nitric acid, air currents can send them thousands of kilometres fromthe source. When the acids fall to the earth in any form it will have largeimpact on the growth or the preservation of certain wildlife. Also it mightbe capable of causing cancer, birth defects, or genetic imbalances for bothhumans and animals (Bown.1990.p:72)

Also these are emitted primarily from utility and also burning wood. Acidrain occurs when these gases react in the atmosphere with water, oxygen,and other chemicals to form various acidic compounds. Sunlight increasesthe rate of most of these reactions. The result is a mild solution ofsulfuric acid and nitric acid.

The wind blows these acidic particles and gases onto buildings, cars,homes, and trees. Dry deposited gases and particles can also be washed fromtrees and other surfaces by rainstorms. When that happens, the runoff wateradds those acids to the acid rain, making the combination more acidic thanthe falling rain alone.

It contains an unnatural acidic. This acidic is notto be confused with uncontaminated rain that falls, for that rain isnaturally slightly acidic. The acid in the acid rain comes from two kindsof air pollutants, sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NO x). About2/3 of all SO2 and 1/4 of all NOx comes from electric power generation thatrelies on burning fossil fuels like coal. (Elsom, 1987:92).

4.Effects of Acid Rain4.1 Water (or fish)Acid rain in water can affect the fish in two ways: directly andindirectly. Sulfuric acid directly interferes with the fish’s ability totake in salt, oxygen and nutrients crucial for daily life. Osmoregulationis the process of maintaining the delicate balance of salts and minerals intheir tissues. For freshwater fish, maintaining osmoregulation is the keyto their survival. Acid molecules, which are a result of acid rain in thewater, cause mucus to form in the fish’s gills. This in return prevents thefish from absorbing oxygen. If the fish are unable to absorb oxygen, theconsequence could be the eventual suffocation of fish and the low pH couldthrow off the balance of salts in the fish tissue, salt such as the calciumCa+2. This can result in poor reproduction.

The fish’s eggs produced wouldbe damaged, they could either be too brittle or too weak. The decreasedCa+2 levels also result in weak spines and deformities. Acid Rain has adetrimental effect when it come to the life of fish, although when nitrogen-containing fertilizers are washed off into the lakes, the nitrogenstimulates the growth of algae, which logically would indicate an increasein oxygen production, thus benefiting the fish. However, because of theincrease in deaths in the fish population due to acid rain,thedecomposition process uses up a lot of the oxygen, which leaves less forthe surviving fish to take in. (Elliot .1984: 156)

Other issues impacted by acid rain are forests and soil. When acid rainfalls onto the earth’s surface it causes a large amount of damage. The soilis robbed of some vital things. Aluminum that is always present in the soilis freed, and the roots of trees absorb the toxic element. The trees inturn are starved and deprived of vital nutrients such as calcium andmagnesium. The Sulfuric acid then returns to earth, when this happens, itclogs up the stomata in the leaves, stopping photosynthesis. In addition,severe frosts may also further aggravate this situation. With sulfurdioxide, ammonia and ozone present in the air, the frost-hardiness of treesare reduced. Ammonia mixes with sulfur dioxide and forms ammonium sulfate.

This product forms on the surface of the trees. When ammonium sulfatereaches the soils, it reacts to create both sulfuric and nitric acid. Suchconditions also stimulate the growth of fungi and pests like the ambrosiabeetle. When trees are under such stress, they release chemicals such asterpenes, which attract the ambrosia beetle, which is a serious killer forforests.

PlantIt also harms vegetation; acid rain damages the protective waxy coat ofleaves. This will interrupt the evaporation of water and air exchangecycle, so the plants can no longer breath leading to a termination of plantgrowth. Toxic metals are further harmful to human health and high leadlevels may harm people who drink the acidic water. Acid rain, acidfog and acid vapour damages the surface of leaves and needles, reducing atree’s ability to withstand cold temperature, inhibit plant germination andreproduction.

It can scar the leaves of hardwood forest, wither ferns andlichens, accelerate the death of coniferous needles, sterilize seeds, andalso weaken the forests to a state that is vulnerable to diseaseinfestation and decay. Consequently, tree vitality andregenerativecapability is reduced. All this will destroy all the vegetation on theearth. As a result, there will no longer be a source of food for humanbeings to survive on this planet.

Acid rain also affects the atmosphere. The effects on the atmosphere aremostly due to dry deposition that was mentioned earlier. The floatingparticles can contribute to haze, which effects visibility. This makesnavigation especially difficult for air pilots. The acid haze also inhibitsthe flow of sunlight from the sun to the earth and back.

Acid rain alsoaffects architecture. Architecture is affected by both dry precipitationand wet precipitation. When these particles land on buildings they eat intothe concrete eventually destroying them. This is a potential danger becausethe infrastructure of the buildings can be destroyed, thus hurting peopleoccupying the building. The SO2 and NO2 emissions add to respiratoryproblems such as asthma, dry coughs, headaches, and eye, nose and throatirritations.

To solve the acid rain problem, people need to understand how acid raincauses damage to the environment. They also need to understand what changescould be made to the Acid rain sources that cause the problem. The answersto these questions help leaders make better decisions about how to controlair pollution and therefore how to reduce – or even eliminate – acid rain.

Since there are many solutions to the acid rain problem, leaders have achoice of which options or combination of options are best. As individualspeople should invest in energy-efficient appliances, avoid the use of airconditioners, turn off the heater in the evenings, if they have a poolcover it when it’s not in use, also ride a bike or take a bus whentraveling. If every one were to apply these practices to there every daylives we could reduce the risk of acid rain becoming out of our control. Asa society we can also help by using alternative energy sources. The nextsection describes some of the steps that can be taken to reduce, or eveneliminate, the acid deposition problem

Almost all of the electricity that powers modern life comes from burningfossil fuels such as; coal, natural gases, and oil. Two pollutants that arereleased into the atmosphere, or emitted cause acid deposition, when thesefuels are burned it creates sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

There are several options for reducing SO2 emissions, including using coalcontaining less sulphur, washing the coal, and using devices calledscrubbers to chemically remove the SO2 from the gases leavingthesmokestack. Power plants can also switch fuels; for example burning naturalgas creates less SO2 than burning coal. Certain approaches will also haveadditional benefits of reducing other pollutants such as mercury and carbondioxide. Understanding these “co-benefits” has become important in seekingcost-effective air pollution reduction strategies.

Finally, power plantscan use technologies that don’t burn fossil fuels. Each of these optionshas its own costs and benefits, however; there is no single universalsolution. Similar to scrubbers on power plants, catalytic converters reduceNOx emissions from cars. These devices have been required for over twentyyears, and it is important to keep them working properly and tailpiperestrictions have been tightened recently. (Bown, 1990:152)

There are other sources of electricity besides fossil fuels. They include:nuclear power, hydropower, wind energy, geothermal energy, and solarenergy. Of these, nuclear and hydropower are used most widely; wind, solar,and geothermal energy have not yet been harnessed on a large scale in Australia.

There are also alternative energies available to powerautomobiles,including natural gas powered vehicles, battery-powered cars, fuel cells,andcombinationsofalternativeandpoweredgasolinevechiles. All sources of energy have environmental costs as well as benefits. Sometypes of energy are more expensive to produce than others, which means thatnot all people can afford all types of energy.

Nuclear power, hydropower,and coal are the cheapest forms today, but changes in technologies andenvironmental regulations may shift that in the future. All of thesefactors must be weighed when deciding which energy source to use today andwhich to invest in for tomorrowIn summary Acid rain is a huge environmental concern.

It causes damages toour lakes, our rivers, our wild life and most importantly human life. Acidrain is absorbed in fruits, and in the tissues of animals. Although thesetoxic metals do not directly affect the animals, they have serious affectson humans when they are being consumed.  It also causes other problems,such as the release of aluminium and lead into our water supplies causingsuffering to human life. Acid rain is a real threat for human beings andthe environment.

In many countries they have set different procedures toprevent acid rain and even as individuals it’s still possible to fight acidrain. The amount of pollution released must be reduced. However it willtake time; even if the pollution were to be stopped today the problem wouldnot end for years to come because of the build up in the soil.


  1. Acidrainandthefacts(2002)
  2. Bown, W.(11Aug1990) “Europe’s forests fall to acid rain”. New Scientist. (Vol. 127, p. 17) New York
  3. Elliott, C., Robert, G. (Editors). (1984) The Acid Rain Sourcebook. NewYork: McGraw-Hill, Inc.
  4. Elsom, d (1987). Atmospheric Pollution, Basil Blackwell Ltd, UK.
  5. Bubenick, D.(1984) Acid rain information

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