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5/30/2017 Causes,EffectsandSolutionsofAcidRainConserveEnergyFuture

WhatisAcidRain?
Acidrainreferstoamixtureofdepositedmaterial,bothwetanddry,comingfromtheatmosphere
containingmorethannormalamountsofnitricandsulfuricacids.Simplyput,itmeansrainthatisacidic
innatureduetothepresenceofcertainpollutantsintheairduetocarsandindustrialprocesses.Itiseasily
definedasrain,fog,sleetorsnowthathasbeenmadeacidicbypollutantsintheairasaresultoffossil
fuelandindustrialcombustionsthatmostlyemitsNitrogenOxides(NOx)andSulfurDioxide(SO2).
AcidityisdeterminedonthebasisofthepHlevelofthewaterdroplets.Normalrainwaterisslightly
acidicwithapHrangeof5.36.0,becausecarbondioxideandwaterpresentintheairreacttogetherto
formcarbonicacid,whichisaweakacid.WhenthepHlevelofrainwaterfallsbelowthisrange,it
becomesacidrain.

Whenthesegasesreactwithwatermoleculesandoxygenamongotherchemicalsfoundinthe
atmosphere,mildacidicchemicalcompoundssuchassulfuricandnitricacidareformedresultingtoacid
rain.Acidraingenerallyleadstoweatheringofbuildings,corrosionofmetals,andpeelingofpaintson
surfaces.Eruptingvolcanoescontainssomechemicalsthatcancauseacidrain.Apartfromthis,burning
offossilfuels,runningoffactoriesandautomobilesduetohumanactivitiesarefewotherreasonsbehind
thisactivity.

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Presently,largeamountsofaciddepositioniswitnessedinthesoutheasternCanada,northeasternUnited
StatesandmostofEurope,includingportionsofSweden,Norway,andGermany.Inaddition,some
amountofaciddepositionisfoundinpartsofSouthAsia,SouthAfrica,SriLanka,andSouthernIndia.

FormsofAcidRain
Therearetwoformsinwhichaciddepositionoccurswetanddry.Botharediscussedbelow:

WetDeposition:Whenthewindblowstheacidicchemicalsintheairtotheareaswheretheweather
iswet,theacidsfalltothegroundintheformofrain,sleet,fog,snowormist.Itremovesacidfromthe
atmosphereanddepositthemontheearthssurface.Whenthisacidflowsthroughtheground,it
affectslargenumberofplants,animalsandaquaticlife.Thewaterfromdrainflowsintoriversand
canalswhichisthemmixedupwithseawater,therebyaffectingmarinehabitats.

DryDeposition:Ifthewindblowstheacidicchemicalsintheairtotheareaswheretheweatheris
dry,theacidicpollutantsslipintodustorsmokeandfalltothegroundasdryparticles.Thesestickto
thegroundandothersurfacessuchascars,houses,treesandbuildings.Almost50%oftheacidic
pollutantsintheatmospherefallbackthroughdrydeposition.Theseacidicpollutantscanbewashed
awayfromearthsurfacebyrainstorms.

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5/30/2017 Causes,EffectsandSolutionsofAcidRainConserveEnergyFuture

Itwasdiscoveredwaybackin1800sduringtheIndustrialRevolution.AScottishchemist,RobertAngus
Smith,wasfirsttodiscoverthisphenomenonin1852asarelationshipbetweenacidrainandatmospheric
pollutioninManchester,England.Butitgainedpublicattentionmainlyin1960s.Thetermwascoinedin
1972whentheNYTimespublishedreportsabouttheclimatechangeeffectswhichstartedarisingdueto
theoccurrenceofacidrainintheHubbardBrookExperimentalForestinNewHampshire.

CausesofAcidRain
Bothnaturalandmanmadesourcesareknowntoplayaroleintheformationofacidrain.But,itis
mainlycausedbycombustionoffossilfuelswhichresultsinemissionsofsulfurdioxide(SO2)and
nitrogenoxides(NOx).

1.NaturalSources

Themajornaturalcausalagentforacidrainisvolcanicemissions.Volcanoesemitacidproducinggasesto
createhigherthannormalamountsofacidrainoranyotherformofprecipitationsuchasfogandsnowto
anextentofaffectingvegetationcoverandhealthofresidentswithinthesurrounding.Decaying
vegetation,wildfiresandbiologicalprocesseswithintheenvironmentalsogeneratetheacidrainforming
gases.Dimethlysulfideisatypicalexampleofamajorbiologicalcontributortosulfurcontaining
elementsintotheatmosphere.Lightingstrikesalsonaturallyproducesnitricoxidesthatreactwithwater
moleculesviaelectricalactivitytoproducenitricacid,therebyformingacidrain.

2.Manmadesources

Humanactivitiesleadingtochemicalgasemissionssuchassulfurandnitrogenaretheprimary
contributorstoacidrain.Theactivitiesincludeairpollutionsourcesemittingsulfurandnitrogengases
likefactories,powergenerationsfacilities,andautomobiles.Inparticular,useofcoalforelectricalpower
generationisthebiggestcontributortogaseousemissionsleadingtoacidrain.Automobilesandfactories
alsoreleasehighscoresofgaseousemissionsondailybasisintotheair,especiallyinhighlyindustrialized
areasandurbanregionswithlargenumbersofcartraffic.Thesegasesreactintheatmospherewithwater,
oxygen,andotherchemicalstoformvariousacidiccompoundssuchassulfuricacid,ammoniumnitrate,
andnitricacid.Asaresult,theseareasexperienceexceedinglyhighamountsofacidrain.

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Theexistingwindsblowtheseacidiccompoundsoverlargeareasacrossbordersandtheyfallbacktothe
groundintheformofacidrainorotherformsofprecipitation.Uponreachingtheearth,itflowsacross
thesurface,absorbsintothesoilandentersintolakesandriversandfinallygetsmixedupwithseawater.

Thegasesi.e.i.e.sulfurdioxide(SO2)andnitrogenoxides(NOx)areprimarilygasesoccurringfrom
electricpowergenerationbyburningcoalandresponsibleforacidrain.

EffectsofAcidRain
Acidrainhassignificanteffectsontheworldenvironmentandpublichealth.

EffectonAquaticEnvironment:Acidraineitherfallsdirectlyonaquaticbodiesorgetsrunoffthe
forests,roadsandfieldstoflowintostreams,riversandlakes.Overaperiodoftime,acidsget
accumulatedinthewaterandlowertheoverallpHofthewaterbody.Theaquaticplantsandanimals
needaparticularpHlevelofabout4.8tosurvive.IfthepHlevelfallsbelowthattheconditions
becomehostileforthesurvivalofaquaticlife.AcidraintendencyofalteringpHandaluminum
concentrationsgreatlyaffectspHconcentrationlevelsinsurfacewater,therebyaffectingfishaswellas
otheraquaticlifeforms.AtpHlevelsbelow5,mostfisheggscannothatch.LowerpHscanalsokill
adultfish.Acidrainrunofffromcatchmentareasintoriversandlakeshasalsoreducedbiodiversityas
riversandlakesbecomemoreacidic.Speciesincludingfish,plantandinsecttypesinsomelakes,
riversandbrookshavebeenreducedandsomeevencompletelyeliminatedowingtoexcessacidrain
flowingintothewaters.

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EffectonForests:Itmakestreesvulnerabletodisease,extremeweather,andinsectsbydestroying
theirleaves,damagingthebarkandarrestingtheirgrowth.Forestdamageduetoacidrainismost
evidentinEasternEuropeespeciallyGermany,PolandandSwitzerland.

EffectonSoil:Acidrainhighlyimpactsonsoilchemistryandbiology.Itmeans,soilmicrobesand
biologicalactivityaswellassoilchemicalcompositionssuchassoilpHaredamagedorreverseddue
totheeffectsofacidrain.ThesoilneedstomaintainanoptimumpHlevelforthecontinuityof
biologicalactivity.Whenacidrainsseepintothesoil,itmeanshighersoilpH,whichdamagesor
reversessoilbiologicalandchemicalactivities.Hence,sensitivesoilmicroorganismsthatcannotadapt
tochangesinpHarekilled.Highsoilacidityalsodenaturesenzymesforthesoilmicrobes.Onthe
samebreadth,hydrogenionsofacidrainleachawayvitalmineralsandnutrientssuchascalciumand
magnesium.

VegetationCoverandPlantations:Thedamagingeffectsofacidrainonsoilandhighlevelsofdry
depositionshaveendlesslydamagedhighaltitudeforestsandvegetationcoversincetheyaremostly
encircledbyacidicfogsandclouds.Besides,thewidespreadeffectsofacidrainonecological
harmonyhaveleadtostuntedgrowthandevendeathofsomeforestsandvegetationcover.

EffectonArchitectureandBuildings:Acidrainonbuildings,especiallythoseconstructedwith
limestone,reactwiththemineralsandcorrodethemaway.Thisleavesthebuildingweakand
susceptibletodecay.Modernbuildings,cars,airplanes,steelbridgesandpipesareallaffectedbyacid
rain.Irreplaceabledamagecanbecausedtotheoldheritagebuildings.

EffectonPublicHealth:Wheninatmosphere,sulfurdioxideandnitrogenoxidegasesandtheir
particulatematterderivativeslikesulfatesandnitrates,degradesvisibilityandcancauseaccidents,
leadingtoinjuriesanddeaths.Humanhealthisnotdirectlyaffectedbyacidrainbecauseacidrain
wateristoodilutetocauseserioushealthproblems.However,thedrydepositionsalsoknownas
gaseousparticulatesintheairwhichinthiscasearenitrogenoxidesandsulfurdioxidecancause
serioushealthproblemswheninhaled.Intensifiedlevelsofaciddepositionsindryformintheaircan
causelungandheartproblemssuchasbronchitisandasthma.

OtherEffects:Acidrainleadstoweatheringofbuildings,corrosionofmetals,andpeelingofpaints
onsurfaces.Buildingsandstructuresmadeofmarbleandlimestonearetheonesespeciallydamaged
byacidrainduetothereactivityoftheacidsintherainandthecalciumcompoundsinthestructures.
Theeffectsarecommonlyseenonstatues,oldgravestones,historicmonuments,anddamaged
buildings.Acidrainalsocorrodesmetalslikesteel,bronze,copper,andiron.

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5/30/2017 Causes,EffectsandSolutionsofAcidRainConserveEnergyFuture

SolutionstoAcidRain
1.CleaningupExhaustPipesandSmokestacks

Mostoftheelectricpowersupportingthemoderndayenergyrequirementscomesfromcombustingfossil
fuelssuchasoil,naturalgas,andcoalthatgeneratenitrogenoxides(NOx)andsulfurdioxide(SO2)as
thechiefcontributorstoacidrain.BurningcoallargelyaccountsforSO2emissionswhileNOxemissions
aremostlyfromfossilfuelcombustions.

Washingcoal,useofcoalcomprisedoflowsulfur,anduseofdevicesknownasscrubberscanprovide
technicalsolutiontoSO2emissions.Scrubbingalsocalledfluegasdesulfurization(FGD)typically
worktochemicallyeliminateSO2fromthegasesleavingsmokestacks.Itcaneliminateupto95%ofSO2
gases.PowergenerationfacilitiescanalsoshifttousingfuelsthatemitmuchlessSO2suchasnaturalgas
insteadofburningcoal.Thesemethodsaresimplycalledemissionreductionstrategies.

Similarly,NOxemissionsfromautomobilefossilfuelcombustionsaremitigateduponbyuseofcatalytic
converters.CatalyticconvertersarefixedontheexhaustpipesystemtoreduceNOxemission.
ImprovementofgasolinethatcombustscleanerisalsoastrategyforreducingemissionofNOxgases.

2.RestoringDamagedEnvironments

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Useoflimestoneorlime,aprocesscalledliming,isapracticethatpeoplecandotorepairthedamage
causedbyacidraintolakes,riversandbrooks.Addinglimeintoacidicsurfacewatersbalancesthe
acidity.Itsaprocessthathasextensivelybeenused,forinstanceinSweden,tokeepthewaterpHat
optimum.Eventhough,limingisanexpensivemethodandhastobedonerepeatedly.Furthermore,it
onlyoffersashorttermsolutionattheexpenseofsolvingthebroaderchallengesofSO2andNOx
emissionsandriskstohumanhealth.Nevertheless,ithelpstorestoreandallowthesurvivalofaquaticlife
formsbyimprovingchronicallyacidifiedsurfacewaters.

3.AlternativeEnergySources

Besidesfossilfuels,thereisawiderangeofalternativeenergysourcesthatcangenerateelectricalpower.
Theseincludewindenergy,geothermalenergy,solarenergy,hydropower,andnuclearpower.Harnessing
theseenergysourcescanoffereffectiveelectricalpoweralternativesinsteadofusingfossilfuels.Fuel
cells,naturalgas,andbatteriescanalsosubstituteuseoffossilfuelascleanerenergysources.Asoftoday,
allenergysourceshaveenvironmentalandeconomiccostsaswellasbenefits.Theonlysolutionis
usingsustainableenergythatcanprotectthefuture.

4.Individual,National/State,andInternationalActions

MillionsofpeopledirectlyandindirectlycontributetoSO2andNOxemissions.Mitigationofthis
challengerequiresindividualstobemoreinformedaboutenergyconservationandwaysofreducing
emissionssuchas:turningofflightsorelectricalapplianceswhennotusingthemusepublictransport
useenergyefficientelectricalappliancesanduseofhybridvehiclesorthosewithlowNOxemissions.

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