Acid rain, also called acid precipitation, is used to denote rainwater that has a pH level of less than 5.6. The only difference between a normal rainfall and an acid rainfall is the pH level. Nowadays, this air pollution form is a subject of increased debates and controversy due to its environmental damages. This phenomenon has caused damage to thousands of lakes and streams in the USA, Canada, and some parts of Europe. Acid rain is formed due to many industrial processes that produces gases such as NO, NO2 , CO2 and SO3. Such gasses can dissolve in the atmosphere resulting in the acidic solutions that fall in the form of acid rain (Myers, Oldham, & Tocci, 2004). Sulfur from industrial processes forms sulfur oxide SO2 , then changes into sulfur trioxide which reacts with the atmospheric water to make sulfuric acid.
Due to the huge impact of acid rainfall on the environment, scientists had to find a method or a way to measure the effect of the acid rain. Therefore, a National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) was created in 1977 to investigate and measure acid deposition. It had 22 stations worldwide collecting samples in containers. When the rain starts the container automatically opens and remains open until the rain stops. Later, these samples are analyzed. “The data go into a database which now stores the data from over 20 years and gives us a feel for how acidity varies with location” (Measuring Acid Rain, 2012). Also, scientists tend to measure lakes, streams, and soil acidity, as well as the amount of sulfuric acid and nitric dioxide in the atmosphere (Environmental Protection Agency, 2014).
Figure 1. The Acid Rain Monitor
As mentioned before, acid rain causes many environmental damages and affects human beings causing many respiratory problems. The emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide increase the respiratory problems risk, as well as enhance headaches, eye, nose, and throat pain. Polluted rainfall extremely affects people who suffer from asthma or breath-related diseases. However, healthy people can also be subjected to lung damaged. The acid rain can make worse the ability to breathe making the disease more severe and result in death. In addition, it can harm people through the atmosphere or the polluted soil from which our food is grown. In some cases these facts lead to fatalities (How Is Acid Rain Formed, n.d.).
The acid rain is very destructive. A sudden pH level change is threatening as the acid is able to trigger serious malformations in young organisms. In general, the youngest species tend to be more sensitive than the older ones. But not all species can endure the same amount of acid. Sulfuric acid does not allow the fish to get sufficient amount of oxygen, salt, and nutrients. Some species of fish fail to maintain the ability to keep balance between vital minerals and salt in the organism’s tissue. Acid molecules enhance the formation of mucus in fish’s gills preventing them from the absorption of oxygen. Moreover, a low level of pH is likely to affect the salt balance in the fish tissues. Some fish cannot maintain proper levels of calcium due to the changes in pH level. This causes reproduction problems (Faridi, 2008).
Acid rain damages natural and artificial materials and structures. It easily dissolves ceramic, marble, limestone, metals, textiles, etc. repairs require huge costs. In Westminster, more than ten million pounds was spent on the repairs for buildings damaged by acid rain. In 1990, the USA spent almost forty billion dollars on damage related to the paint restoration caused by the acid precipitation.
Since acid rain affects our environment, harms humanity, destroy our buildings, kill animals and fish, it is really essential for us to get rid of this phenomenon if we want to live in a healthy environment, without any disturbed ecosystems. Getting rid of such a trend, can be done in several ways. The use of science is really important. Science and innovation can replace harmful tools with the environmentally friendly ones. A good example is the Hybrid cars as they have been modified to work on solar energy or electricity, instead of burning fuel, which will eventually lead to the acid rain. Also, some devices were made to save our environment. For example, the catalytic converter in cars, which is located on the exhaust pipe, forces all the exhaust to pass through it. This transforms nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxides and unburned hydrocarbons into a cleaner state.
In 1991, the USA and Canada signed the agreement to reduce the sulfur dioxide release. The USA agreed to decrease their annual sulfur dioxide production by about eleven million tons by the year 2000. Governments have also passed laws to reduce production of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide (Faridi, 2008).
As citizens we can work together to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Public transport or walking can reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. The use of decreased energy amount positively influences the environment as the traditional energy comes from fossil fuels and it leads to the acid rain. For example, it is essential not to use lights when not needed, reduce air conditioning and heat consumption, as well as use new and environmentally friendly products that consume less energy. An alternative power source can also be used to reduce emissions. These alternatives include solar power energy, wind energy, and water energy.
In conclusion, the acid rain negatively influences everything it touches. When the acid rain affects the forest or the environment, it damaged humans in general. As soon as the forests and lakes become totally destroyed and polluted, animals begin to die out because of the extreme lack vital elements. If all the animals, which are our food, die out, humans would die out too. Thus, the acid rain would reach us and harm us in the end. It can end the human life. Therefore, reduction of the emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide would bring balance in our environment and maintain sustainability of the natural world.