Acid rain

Topics: Acid rain, Sulfur dioxide, Sulfuric acid Pages: 5 (1563 words) Published: March 1, 2014
Cause and Effect on Acid Rain

Beautifully crafted statues are now worn out or severely damaged, aquatic wildlife population are dying off, forests have lost the leaves that protect their trees and produce food, and the rates of lung diseases in humans are rising around the world. The cause of all of these problems can be linked back to acid rain. Most people don’t understand the concept or science behind acid rain. The common belief is that it’s a natural process, but it’s actually caused by pollution and human activity. Acid rain affects us all, and people need to understand and recognize that acid rain is a problem.  What Is Acid Rain?

Acid rain is also called "acid deposition" and it is acidic precipitation with a pH lower than 5.6. The pH is a scale used to measure acidity where the lower the number, the more acidic a substance.  Pure water has a neutral pH of 7.0, while normal surface water is slightly acidic with a pH of 5.6. Humans or natural occurrences can cause acid rain. For example, when a volcano erupts, it releases sulfur dioxide as one of the main components, which can enter the water and cause it to become acidic. However, the primary source of acid rain is the acidic compounds released by atmosphere pollution. Industrial processes like factories and motors like cars release sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide and dioxide (NO2 or NO3, commonly written as NOx), which are both strong acids when added to water. As shown in the image below, power plants can release large amounts of these two gases, and prevailing winds spread acid rain across a state or even hundreds of miles away.
Acid rain can be in the form of what is called wet deposition or dry deposition. Wet deposition is mainly in the form of preciptation like snow or acid rain, but can also be through sources like fog or dew. In dry deposition, the acidic chemicals may be incorperated with smoke and dust to fall to the ground in solid forms, which stick on building, trees, cars, homes and can leave permanent residues and damage.          What is Acid rain made of

Acid rain forms from the combination of atmospheric water and gaseous oxides of sulfur, nitrogen, and phosphoric and hydrochloric acid mists. A good example of how this process works can be seen with nitrogen  oxides in the atmosphere. Nitrogen, as an element, is critical to the atmosphere composition of the environment. However, nitrogen dioxide is not free nitrogen gas--it is formed from the combination of nitrogen and atmospheric oxygen (NO2). When nitrogen dioxide comes into contact with water, it forms nitrous acid (HNO2) and nitric acid (HNO3). These chemicals bring down acid rain’s pH level from 5.6 to 3.5. In extreme cases, it can drop to as low as 2, making the rain itself a strong acid.  An identical process happens to sulfur too, forming sulfur dioxide (SO2) to make up a significant component of pollution. When sulfur dioxide reacts with water in the atmosphere, it forms sulfuric acid with the chemical equation SO2(g)+ H2O(I) => H2SO3. Both sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are key components in pollution released by humans, as shown in the following chart. Effect of Acid Rain
Aquatic Settings
Acid rain has many effects on the world, as mentioned in the introduction. These can be seen across the spectrum of experiences, in forests and the oceans, in materials and human health. That acid rain is significantly affecting aquatic setting can be clearly seen in lakes, streams, and marshes. Because of acid rain, the streams and lakes are more acidic, which naturally affects aquatic wildlife. Acid rain can directly harm or kill individual aquatic wildlife, which reduces the wildlife population and decreases biodiversity. Dying fish populations means economic effects to fisheries and...

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