Acid Raid Essay, Research Paper
Acid rain is a serious problem that creates disastrous effects. Each day this serious problem increases. Many people believe that this issue is too small to deal with right now — they’re wrong. This issue should be met head on, and solved before it is too late. In the following paragraphs I will be discussing the impact acid rain has on the wildlife and how our atmosphere is being destroyed.
Acid rain is a cancer — eating into the face of Eastern Canada and the North Eastern United States. In Canada, the main sulfuric acid sources are non-ferrous smelters and power generation. On both sides of the border, cars and trucks are the main sources for nitric acid (about 40% of the total), while power generating plants and industrial commercial and residential fuel combustion contribute most of the rest. In the atmosphere, the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides can be transformed into sulfuric acid and nitric acid, and air currents can send them thousands of kilometers from the source. When the acids fall to the earth, no matter what form they take, it will have a large impact on the growth and the preservation of certain wildlife.
Areas in Ontario, mainly southern regions that are near the Great Lakes, which have such substances such as limestone or other known antacids can neutralize acids entering the body of water thereby protecting it. However, large areas of Ontario that are near the Pre-Cambrian Shield, with quartzite or granite based geology and little top soil, do not have enough buffering capacity to neutralize even small amounts of acid falling on the soil and the lakes. Therefore, over time, the basic environment shifts from an alkaline to an acidic one. One serious effect is that fish cannot live in acidic conditions. This is why many lakes in the Muskoka, Haliburton, Algonquin, Parry Sound and Manitoulin districts could lose their fisheries if sulfur emissions are not reduced substantially.
The average mean of pH rainfall in Ontario’s Muskoka-Haliburton lake country ranges between 3.95 and 4.38, which is about 40 times more acidic than normal rainfall. Storms in Pennsylvania have an average rainfall pH at 2.8, which almost have the same rating for vinegar. Already 140 Ontario lakes are completely dead or dying. An additional 48,000 are sensitive and vulnerable to acid rain due to the surrounding concentrated acidic soils.
Canada does not have as many people, power plants or automobiles as the United States, and yet acid rain there has become so severe that Canadian government officials called it the most pressing environmental issue facing the nation. It is important to bear in mind that acid rain is only one segment of the widespread pollution of the atmosphere facing the world. Each year the global atmosphere is on the receiving end of 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide, 130 million tons of suffer dioxide, 97 million tons of hydrocarbons, 53 million tons of nitrogen oxides, more than three million tons of arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, nickel, zinc and other toxic metals, and a host of synthetic organic compounds ranging from polychlorinated biphenyl’s (PCBs), to toxaphene and other pesticides — a number of which may be capable of causing cancer, birth defects, or genetic imbalances.
Interactions of pollutants can cause problems. In addition to contributing to acid rain, nitrogen oxides can react with hydrocarbons to produce ozone, a major air pollutant responsible in the United States for annual losses of $2 billion to 4.5 billion worth of wheat, corn, soybeans, and peanuts. In Canada, Ontario has lost fish in an estimated 4,000 lakes, and provincial authorities calculate that Ontario stands to lose fish in 48,500 more lakes within the next twenty years if acid rain continues at the present rate. However, Ontario is not alone. On Nova Scotia’s Eastern most shores, almost every river flowing to the Atlantic Ocean is poisoned with acid, further threatening a $2 million a year fishing industry.
Acid rain is killing more than lakes. It can scar the leaves of hardwood forests, wither ferns and lichens, accelerate the death of coniferous needles, sterilize seeds, and weaken the forests to a state that is vulnerable to disease, infestation, and decay. In the soil the acid neutralizes chemicals vital for growth, strips others from the soil and carries them to the lakes, and literally retards the respiration of the soil. The rate of forest growth in the White Mountains of New Hampshire has declined 18% between 1956 and 1965, a time of increasingly intense acidic rainfall. However, acid rain doesn’t exclusively fall on the lakes, forests, and thin soils of the Northeast — it now covers more than half of the continent.
There is evidence that the rain is destroying the productivity of the once rich soils themselves, like an overdose of chemical fertilizer, or a gigantic drenching of vinegar. The damage of such overdosing may not be repairable or reversible. On some croplands, tomatoes grow to only half their full weight, and the leaves of radishes wither. Acid rain is eating away stone monuments and concrete structures, and corroding the pipes, which channel the water away to the lakes, and the cycle is repeated. Paints on houses and automobiles have their lives reduced by nearly half, due to the pollution in the atmosphere speeding up the corrosion process. In some communities the drinking water is laced with toxic metals, which have been freed from metal pipes by the acidity. As if urban skies were not already gray enough, typical visibility has declined from 10 to 4 miles, along the Eastern seaboard, as acid rain turns into smog. There are indicators that the components of acid rain are a health risk, linked to human respiratory disease.
Although there is very little data, the evidence indicates that in the last twenty to thirty years the acidity of rain has increased in many parts of the United States. Presently, the United States annually discharges more than 26 million tons of suffer dioxide into the atmosphere. Three states, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois are responsible for nearly a quarter of this total. Overall, two-thirds of the sulfur dioxide released into the atmosphere over the United States comes from coal-fired and oil-fired plants. Industrial boilers, smelters, and refineries contribute 26%; commercial institutions and residences 5%; and transportation 3%.
The outlook for future emissions of sulfur dioxide is not a bright one. Between now and the year 2010, United States utilities are expected to double the amount of coal they burn. The United States currently pumps some 23 million tons of nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere throughout the course of the year. Transportation sources account for 40%; power plants, 30%; industrial sources, 25%; and commercial institutions and residues, 5%. What makes these figures particularly disturbing is that nitrogen oxide emissions have tripled in the last thirty years.
Acid rain is very real and a very threatening problem. Action by one government is simply not enough. In order for things to be done we need to find a way to work together on this for, at the least, a reduction in the contaminates contributing to acid rain. There are certainly right steps in the right directions, but the government should be cracking down on factories not using the best filtering systems when incinerating, or if the factory is giving off any other dangerous fumes. I fear that the world is going to die along with the human race, because of our mistreatment of the planet. We need to put our feet down and save what little we have left. I would like to ask this question to you: Would you rather pay a little now or a lot later?