Acid Rain Essay Research Paper

Acid Rain Essay, Research Paper “Acid Rain,” or more precisely acidic precipitation, is the term used to describe rainfall that has a pH level of less than 5.6–a pH of 7 being neutral. This form of air

Acid Rain Essay, Research Paper

“Acid Rain,” or more precisely acidic precipitation, is the term used to describe

rainfall that has a pH level of less than 5.6–a pH of 7 being neutral. This form of air

pollution is currently a subject of great controversy because of the damage it does tot he

environment and property worldwide. For the last ten years, this occurrence has brought

destruction to thousands of lakes and streams in the United States, Canada, and parts of

Europe. It also leads to the deterioration of buildings and statues by reacting with several

minerals. Acid rain is formed when oxides of nitrogen and sulfite combine with moisture

in the atmosphere to make nitric and sulfuric acids. These acids can be carried away far

from its origin.

The two primary sources of acid rain are sulfur dioxide (SO2), and oxides of nitrogen

(NOx). Sulfur dioxide is a colorless gas released as a by-product of combusted fossil fuels

containing sulfur (Farnham, A

variety of industrial processes, such as the production of iron and steel, utility factories,

and crude oil processing produce this gas. Sulfur dioxide can also be emitted into the

atmosphere by natural disasters or means (Farnham, This accounts for ten percent of all

sulfur dioxide emission, coming from volcanoes, sea spray, plankton, and rotting

vegetation. Overall, 69.4 percent of sulfur dioxide is produced by industrial combustion.

Only 3.7 percent is caused by transportation (Farnham,

The other chemical that is also chiefly responsible for the make-up of acid rain is

nitrogen oxide. Oxides of nitrogen is a term used to describe any compound of nitrogen

with any amount of oxygen atoms. Nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen dioxide are all oxides

of nitrogen. These gases are by-products of firing processes of extreme high temperatures

(automobiles, utility plants), and in chemical industries (fertilizer production)

(Phamornsuwana, Natural

processes such as bacterial action in soil, forest fires, volcanic action, and lightning make

up five percent of nitrogen oxide emission (Phamornsuwana,

Transportation makes up 43 percent, and 32 percent belongs to industrial combustion.

Nitrogen oxide is a dangerous gas by itself. This gas attacks the membranes of the

respiratory organs and increases the likelihood of respiratory illness. It also contributes to

ozone damage, and forms smog (Phamornsuwana, Nitrogen

oxide can spread far from the location it was originated by acid rain.

Changes in environment change the wildlife living in that environment. The lowering

of pH from 7 to 4 is a dramatic change in environment, and the changes in wildlife reflect

it. There are both direct and indirect effects of acid rain. Acid directly interferes with the

ability of fish to take in oxygen, salt, and other nutrients needed to stay alive. Acidic

conditions in the water cause mucus to form in the gills of fish, and prevents them from

absorbing oxygen from the surrounding waters (Farnham, With a few exceptions adult fish

are unable to survive in waters with a pH below 4.8. However, fish eggs and baby fish are

unable to survive pHs below 5.5 (Farnham, If reproduction is not possible a

given fish population will eventually die off even if the pH is not low enough to kill the

adult fish. Most importantly, acid rain can harm us through the atmosphere or through

the soil from which our food is grown. Acid rain causes toxic metals to break loose from

their natural chemical compounds, thus making the previously harmless metals

dangerous. They release toxic metals that might be absorbed by the drinking water,

crops, or animals that humans consume. These foods that are consumed could cause

nerve damage to children or severe brain damage–aluminum is suspected to relate to

Alzheimer’s disease (Farnham,

One of the serious side effects of acid rain on humans is respiratory problems. The

sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emission gives risk to respiratory problems such as dry

coughs, asthma, headaches, eye, nose, and throat irritation (Phamornsuwana, Polluted

rainfall and fog is especially harmful to those with breathing problems such as asthma.

Acid rain can also aggravate a person’s ability to breathe and may increase disease

possibly leading to death.

The repairs on building and monuments can due to acid rain damage can be quite

costly. In Westminster, England, up to ten million pounds was dedicated to repairs

damaged by acid rain (Phamornsuwana, In 1990,

the United States spent thirty-five billion dollars on paint damage (Phamornsuwana, In 1985,

the Cologne Cathedral cost the Germans approximately twenty million dollars in repairs.

The Roman monuments cost the Romans about two hundred million dollars to restore


In 1991, the United States and Canada signed an air quality agreement. Ever since that

time, both countries have taken actions to reduce sulfur dioxide emission (Farnham, The United States agree to reduce

their annual sulfur dioxide emission by about ten million tons by the year 2000 (Farnham, A year before the agreement, the

Clean Air Pact Amendment tried to reduce nitrogen oxide by two million tons. This

program focused on the source that emits nitrogen oxide, automobiles and coal-fired

electric utility boilers (Farnham,

What humans can do, as citizens, to reduce sulfur and nitrogen dioxide emission is to

reduce the use of fossil fuels. Car pools, public transportation, or walking can reduce

tons of nitrogen oxide emissions. Using less energy benefits the environment because the

energy used comes from fossil fuels which can lead to acid rain. For example, turning off

lights not being used, and reduce air conditioning and heat usage. Replacing old

appliances and electronics with newer energy efficient products is also an excellent idea.

Sulfur dioxide emission can be reduced by adding scrubbers to utility plants (Farnham, An alternative power source can

also be used in power plants to reduce emissions. These alternatives are: geothermal

energy, solar power energy, wind energy, and water energy.


Sarn Phamornsuwana (1999). Causes, effects and solutions of acid rain. Retrieved 9 Feb.

from the World Wide Web:


Shayne Farnham (1999). Acid rain: Meteorology independent study. Retrieved 27 Mar.

from the World Wide Web: