Rain is one of the most dire and essential needs for a thriving ecosystem, and to sustain human, animal, and plant life. The water provided by the water cycle, the event causing rain, is required to keep all life on Earth alive. Rain, although naturally acidic, seems to have been increasing at a rapid rate due to many reasons. Some of these many reasons include, pollution.
Pollution from homes, factories, power stations, cars, and many more man-made products. So even though rain, while naturally acidic, was not referred to as “Acid Rain” till man-made pollutions began to alter it in a greater way. The effect of these pollutions on rain, is now the reason why acid rain is of existence.
However, contrary to popular belief, acid rain isn’t just a problem that’s occurred in the past thirty years. Over a hundred years ago, a chemist named Robert Smith found great evidence that the rainfall in Manchester, U.K. was more acidic than reasonable. After studying chemicals like sulphur dioxide, he found a link between the increased acidity in the rain and the amount of chemicals being given off when coal was burnt in factories.
Acidity levels in rain rise mainly when pollutants from all aforementioned sources are mixed with the atmospheric moisture. Due to this mixing of the atmosphere, it is incredibly hard to maintain and/or contain the levels of acidity in rain to a single area. Pollutants and chemicals may be carried in clouds over incredibly long distances before finally resulting in downpour. This means that outside of factories and industrial zones, acid rain can hit commercial areas, and can also spread to wildlife areas, such as rainforests, forests, jungles, and other biomes. All this attributes to the rising rates of acidic rain over the past 100 years.
The effects of acid rain on living things, such as plants, marine life, animals, and humans?
There is an obvious and increasing link between acid rain and the harm done to organic life. Primarily, since more easily documentable, human health seems to be affected the most in this trifle. People can be harmed by breathing in toxins, chemicals, and pollutants, from either dry deposits of this acid rain, or chemicals can be released through vapor/liquid form.
This can range from causing chest illnesses, breathing problems, birth defects, and other unusual diseases more and more commonly being revealed as time progresses. Some birth defects include, but are not limited to, birth without certain limbs, birth without ability to reproduce, or lacking reproductive organs completely, and other respiratory conditions. These respiratory conditions occur because when toxins burrow into the lungs, it acts as a poison, and causes the airways to get narrower. The narrowing of the respiratory system’s airways causes it to become harder to breathe.
The same conditions exist for other organic life, only in a slightly different manner. Marine life and animals seem to exhibit nearly the same conditions that humans do, except with less frequent birth rates with lack of limbs. Breathing gets more difficult for all living organisms with a respiratory system, or similar breathing mechanism.
However, acid rain becomes a much more complex matter when dealing with plants. Over the progression of time, scientists have noted a slowed progression of forests, leaves turning brown and dying whereas they should be green and healthy. After massive conductions of tests, scientists have noted that acid rain is one of the primary reasons for dying/slowed/injured rainforests. In other studies, it’s shown that soil degradation is a product resulting from acid rain, mainly in the eastern regions of the US.
The effects of acid rain on buildings?
The acidity levels in rain have a much slower impact on constructions and buildings than they do on organic life, but the impact is still notice, increasingly over the past few years. It is a proven scientific fact that acids have a corrosive effect on many buildings and sculptures, most notably, the statue of liberty.
The Statue Of Liberty, being made from copper, has an extreme reaction when having dealt with acid rain. As well as having a dire effect on constructions of copper, other materials such as limestone and marble also have an extreme corrosive reaction to acids and acid rain. It is scientific fact that any wet or dry deposition of sulfur dioxide drastically increases the rate of corrosion on limestone, marbles, sandstones, and coppers. A common test to prove this would be dropping an egg into vinegar, a test many have conducted as proof to this fact.
Eggshells are made from the same materials as limestone, calcium carbonate, and vinegar also has a great acidity level. Within an hour from dropping this egg into the vinegar, the shell will completely dissolve.
In these two pictures you can see the effects of acids on different construction material. This massively demonstrates the fatalities of acidic rain levels being increased over time. In the picture to the right, the eggs in water and orange are practically new, where as the egg in coke seems to have a few obstructions.
However, the egg that is in the vinegar, is shown to be completely dissolving with bubbles even popping out from around it. In the picture to the left it show’s the stature of liberty as how it once used to be (Artists depiction), and of how it is now. These drastic effects are fatal on the environment, natural or manmade. Solutions to solve this problem of acid rain?
To reduce the acidity levels of rain, industries must cut down the amount of sulphur dioxide being produced when fossil fuels are burned and used. Viewing it like this, industries have a few options in which to choose from.
They can produce and use coal that has little to no amounts of sulphur on it, research can be done to find a way in which to remove sulphur from coal. Other choices, but less conventional range from using a different kind of fuel, or researching a way in which when the coal is burned, the sulfur is destroyed before being emissed into the atmosphere.
There seems to be many ways to combat this issue, but the most conventional seems to be halting the emissions of pollutants all in all. Reducing the amount of nitrogen oxide emissions caused by car exhaust is an effective solution. Public transport systems need to be improved so that people can travel without having to use their cars. If more people used public transport, it would cut the number of private vehicles on the roads, and would reduce pollution dramatically. Everybody needs to work together to reduce pollutants to make the world a safer and healthier place to live.
In conclusion, acid rain continues to develop into a greater and more massive problem as time progresses. However, if certain countermeasures are taken, which in hindsight, shouldn’t have to have been even contemplated if measures were taken in the past, can prevent acidity levels in rain to become a greater problem than it already is. In addition to limiting its growth, we can also work together, industries and the common denizens of society, to lowering its level as a whole.
Courtney from Study Moose
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