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Acid rain

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Acid Rain.gif

Acid rain is rain that has a lower pH levels due to the increased emissions of industrial areas. The damage done to buildings and statues, not to mention the effect acid rain has on the environment, has increased dramatically over the decades. [1]

Another name for acid rain is acid deposition due to the fact that it involves other forms of precipitation, wet and dry. Acid rain is measured on the pH scale, which ranges from zero to fourteen. The neutral area for acidic levels is seven, but the lower the pH scale reads, the more acidic something is. Acid deposition occurs naturally, like from volcanoes, but mostly it is caused by fossil fuel combustion. The water, oxygen, and other gases in the atmosphere react with the fossil fuel, and disperse over vast areas where they fall to the earth as precipitation. Since acid rain effects human health, as well as environmental damage, steps are being taken to solve the acid rain dilemma. Some governments require energy producers to clean smoke stacks before releasing trap pollutants into the atmosphere, or find alternative eco-friendly energy sources. [2]

Properties

Acid Rain Cycle

The main causes of acid rain include[3]:

Carbon dioxide: When coal, oil, and natural gas are burned they release carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is toxic and causes serious health problems.

Carbon monoxide: Burning gasoline, oil, and wood releases carbon monoxide, a gas that causes fatigue and slows the delivery of oxygen.

Chlorofluorocarbons: Chlorofluorocarbons or CFC’s are used for refrigeration, air conditioners, and other products. If the CFC’s get released into the air, they can cause the stratospheric layer to thin.

Hazardous air pollutants: Chemical plants, dry cleaners, printing plants, and motor vehicles all release hazardous air pollutants. HAP’s can lead to cancer, birth defects, nervous system problems, and deaths.

Lead: Lead is a metal that can be found in old homes, old plumbing, and other consumer products. Lead causes severe health problems, and is significant in damaging the nervous system and learning disabilities of young children.

Nitrogen oxides: Burning certain fossil fuels release nitrogen oxides. Combined with VOC’s cause respiratory problems.

Ozone: Ozone cause lung infections when released by motor vehicles, industries, burning coal, gasoline, and other fossil fuels, and in the chemicals that are in hairspray and paints.

Particulate matter: Cars, trucks, and buses burn diesel fuel, fertilizers, and pesticides, as well as road construction, steel making, mining, and turning on fire places and wood stoves, release particles of pollution called particulate matter. When inhaled, and mixed with air particles, PM’s cause respiratory disease and lung damage.

Sulfur dioxides: Sulfur dioxides is harmful to vegetation, metals, and causes lung damage and breathing problems. Sulfur dioxides are released into the air from melting metal and by burning paper products and coal.

Volatile organic compounds: When gasoline, wood, coal, or natural gas, solvents, paints, and glues are burned they release volatile organic compounds, or VOC’s.

Forms

Acid rain can appear in other forms. Wherever there are wet weather conditions, acid rain takes on the forms of:

Snow: Acid snow holds similar properties as acid rain. However since snow is mostly frozen water, it not as damaging as acid rain because snow has lower acidic levels. [4]:

Fog: Acid fog, or haze, occurs when acidic materials are taken up from the gas phase. [5]:

Mist: If conditions during the production of sulfuric acid become less than optimal, the acid escapes in the form of acid mist in finely dispersed droplets.[6]:

Wherever there are dry weather conditions, acid rain takes on the forms of:

Gas: Acid gas is any gaseous mixture that forms an acidic compound when mixed with water, mainly natural gases. Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and carbon dioxide (CO2) are the most common types of acid gases. The only way to remove acid gas is through a process called amine gas treating in order for natural gas to be usable. [7]:

Dust: Acid dust is defined as air-polluting particles of dust, usually wind-borne, having high concentrations of acid.[8]:

Occurrences

The The effects of acid rain and weathering on monument in the glasgow "Necropolis".

Acid rain is extremely harmful to the environment. Acid rain gets absorbed into nearby lakes , plants, and masonry as gases. Since acid rain can take both dry and wet forms, it poses a threat to both land and sea life.[9]

Forests: Acid rain, fog, and vapor all contribute to damaging the world’s forests. The acid is absorbed into the trees by the damages caused to the waxy outer coating of the leaves, and the needles. This causes the gas takes the place of water and photosynthesis is unable to take place. The surrounding soilabsorbs the acid, affecting the chemical balance, robbing the soil of its nutrition, and leaving aluminum in its place. Many toxic metals, including zinc, copper, and chromium, are released into the forest when acid rain falls. When this happens the growth of many mosses, algae, fungi, and trees is undersized.

Sea Life: The worst effects of acid rain are seen in the water. The minerals that are leeched from the forest soil find their way into nearby lakes and rivers. The pH level needs to stay in the neutral area of 7 on the scale. If the number drops below 7, the more acidic substance there is in the water. Fish need water to breath, and when the acidic level in the water goes below 4.5 on pH scale, all of the sea life dies. Fish also suffer from intense gill damage and disturbs the surrounding plant life. Any aquatic plants and animals, insects, and bottom dwelling decomposers will also be affected by acid rain. In the 1980’s at least 202 lakes were studied for acidic levels, and only 33% of the lakes have become less acidic.

Humans: Humans are also affected by acid rain. Acid deposits come in contact with people’s every day lives. Food, drinks, the very air we breathe, all have been in contact with some form of acid rain. More health problems occur the more acid rain becomes a problem. Children and adults with asthma or other respiratory problems have been linked with acid air pollution. Health problems in the United States and Canada include: 550 premature deaths, 1,520 emergency room visits, and 210,070 asthma symptom days.

Non-living Objects: Acid rain can do severe damage to some of the nation’s most memorable monuments. Buildings, statues, and sculptures are all targets of acid rain.

Solutions

Over the years people have tried to come up with a way to stop acid rain. One temporary solution occurs in the Northeast, where large amounts of limestone are added to lakes. The best way to end acid rain is to attack it at the source: industrial plantations. The main cause of acid rain comes from burning fossil fuels that pollutes the air. Some options include installing "scrubbers" to existing power plants (tall towers that mix escaping gas with water and lime to produce clean gases), or simply converting to nuclear power energy. Another option is to place small pieces of limestone and burning coal in a stream of compressed air at the bottom of the furnace. This causes sulfur dioxide to react with limestone. However, there seems to be no simple solution to stopping acid rain. [10]

References

  1. Acid Rain unknown Author, unknown Publisher, February 15, 2011.
  2. Acid Rain - Causes, Effects, and Solutions unknown Author, unknown Publisher, February 15, 2011.
  3. Acid Rain ThinkQuest Team, unknown, January 28, 2011.
  4. Acid Snow David R. Cook, unknown Publisher, February 15, 2011.
  5. cid-fog1 acid fog - AMS Glossary unknown Author, unknown Publisher, February 15, 2011.
  6. Acid Mist unknown Author, unknown Publisher, February 15, 2011.
  7. What is Acid Gas unknown Author, unknown Publisher, February 15, 2011.
  8. Define Acid dust unknown Author, unknown Publisher, February 15, 2011.
  9. [1] ThinkQuest Team, unknown, January 25, 2011.
  10. Cox, Porch, and Wetzel. Chemistry for Christian Schools. South Carolina: Bob Jones University Press, 2000. (p.395).