There is a considerable problem today in our world, and its effects are astronomical. This problem is acid rain. Acid rain is any precipitation; rain, snow, or fog that contains acids such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. These chemicals are byproducts of industrial processes and or burning of fossil fuels. The United States pumped a disgusting 16. 8 tons of SO2 into the atmosphere in 1995 (Alm 349. ) Nitrogen oxide emissions come mainly from the combustion engines, that operate our vehicles, furnaces, industrial and electrical utility boilers and engines.
It is hard to believe that in the United States, also in 1995, the NOx emissions were an estimated 21. 7 tons in weight ( Alm 349. ) If these pollutants are present in the atmosphere, they can travel, via wind currents, long distances, and return to the earth dissolved in one or more types of precipitation contaminated by said chemical waste. Regular old rain, not contaminated by acid, is slightly acidic, with a pH of 5. 6. This slight acidity is caused by carbon dioxide, that is naturally found in the atmosphere. Acid rain effects every single aspect of every ecosystem.
Acid rain is devastating to aquatic life, crops and forests, and not to mention human life. One would tend to think that acid rain would greatly affect trees and plants, this based on the trees direct contact with the acid rain. An estimated sixty five percent of trees are effected by acid rain. The leaves of the trees are scarred by the rain, the seeds sterilized, and the immune system of entire forests are damaged, exposing them to disease infestation. The growth of forestlands can also be greatly slowed by the effects of acid rain. Lakes are also greatly affected by contaminated precipitation.
It has been discovered that some twenty thousand lakes have been turned acidic through groundwater contamination by acid rain. Fish start to die at around a pH of below 5. 6. There are natural buffers such as calcium and lime in lakes to help neutralize these acids. If there arent enough buffer materials, or they are completely neutralized by the acids, the pH will not get better, and the lake will become sterile (Public 22. ) What can we do to help control the problem of acid rain? Well, the obvious comes to mind. The emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that are released into the air must be controlled.
This means that we have to stop burning so much fossil fuel. Cleaner burning fuels are available, and should be used. Low sulphur coal is available and natural gas burns with a very low sulphur emissions. Factories have devices called scrubbers, that spray emissions with lime, in the smokestacks, which neutralizes the acids before they get into the air. Vehicles in the United States and Canada must, by law, be fitted with a catalytic converter, which passes the exhaust fumes over metal beads that help to advocate chemical reactions that help reduce pollution.
There is little we can do to control the acid, once its in our waters and forests. In Norway, powdered lime is dropped from planes to help make the waters of their acidic lakes and the soils of their forests more alkaline. Acid rain needs serious attention by Americans today. With the implication of the clean air acts, that reduce emissions of harmful gases, acid rain has been reduced in large portions of N. America. This is just a small start to a big problem that weve been causing for many years.