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Effects of Acid Rain On The Environment

April 27, 2011
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The term “acid rain” is used to describe a phenomenon, whereby, there is deposition of acidic matter from the atmosphere. The deposition is normally in two forms; either wet or dry, depending on the atmospheric conditions. Dry deposition occurs in the form of acidic dust and gas, and is common in dry atmospheric conditions. Wet deposition, on the other hand, is common in wet climatic areas, and is experienced in the form of acid rain, acid snow, or acid fog. The overall impact on the environment, by these acidic depositions are influenced by several factors, key among them the pH of the deposition, the capacity of the soils and plant cover to buffer, and the different organisms whose livelihood depends on the water.

On average, about 50% of the acidic deposits fall back to the earth, whereas the rest is deposited on trees, buildings and other objects. The deposits other than those that fell directly to the soil may remain on the surfaces that they were deposition initially occurred, or either, get washed away by rainstorm, or blown away by strong winds.

Nitrogen oxides and Sulfur dioxide have been identified as the two major compounds that cause acid rain. These compounds are most common in industrialized nations due to the many large industries that burn fossil fuels to generate electricity. When coal or any other fossil fuel is burnt, it releases these gases into the atmosphere where they mix with other compounds such as oxygen and water, too form compounds that are acidic in nature. Examples of these acidic compounds are nitric acid and sulfuric acid.

Effects

Among the effects of acid rain are:

• Acid rain causes acidification of water bodies, such as lakes, and as a result negatively impacts marine life in these water bodies.
• Acidic depositions lower the soils pH levels, and as a result lead to poor agricultural yields, and the devastation of vegetation and forest cover.
• The Corrosion and decay of paints and building material caused by acid rain, leads to damaged buildings and infrastructure.
• The corrosive nature of acid rain causes respiratory and skin diseases.
• Acid rain contributes to poor visibility due to the various atmospheric reactions that take place.

What Society Can Do

It is important for society to understand the primary causes of acid rain, as this will help in formulating mechanisms for reducing the frequent recurrence. The cause can be summed up into one factor; air pollution. If society comes together and implement the various solutions that are meant to deal with air pollution, then incidences of acid rain will be greatly reduced. There are two major approaches to fighting air pollution, i.e. the reducing emissions of harmful gases to the atmosphere and the use of alternative energy. To reduce emission of harmful gases, industries can undertake a change of fuel, by shifting from coal to the more environmentally friendly natural gas. On the other hand, the use of alternative energy sources, such as hydro-power, geothermal, wind, and nuclear power, will help reduce emissions, since these are considered clean energy sources.

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