Acid Rains

Acid rains are cause for great concern and controversy all over planet Earth.While acid rain occurs naturally the largest contributor to the phenomenon is man.The advent of the Industrial Revolution was the beginning and it has worsened since causing adverse effects on, water supplies, forests, soil, man-made structures and human health.

Acid rain is defined as elevated levels of hydrogen ions or low PH in rain or water molecules in the atmosphere.The largest contributor is sulfur dioxide primarily from the burning of fossil fuels while a smaller contributor is nitrogen oxide which is more often produced naturally by lightning strikes. Sulfur dioxide occurs naturally in the form of volcanic eruptions but in comparison to man it plays a minor role in acid rain.

Man-made structures are where acid rain is most visible in particular brick, limestone or metal such as bridges are most commonly corroded by acid rain.The contaminated water eats the surface of these edifices undermining their structural integrity. As acid rain can be deposited via water molecules it can also be dry deposited onto these structures, causing pitting and corrosion. Vehicles are now painted with acid-resistant paint to avoid the rapid decomposition experienced due to acid rain.

Forests are also damaged by acid rain.The low PH inhibits the trees ability to fend off disease and extreme weather causing mass die offs of forests particularly in Eastern Europe.This also affects the soil by leaching vital nutrients making food cultivation unviable.

The effect on water supplies is frightening. As is the natural cycle of the earth, water collects in rivers, lakes and oceans where the concentration of acid rain becomes too high the plants and animals can no longer live when the pH level falls below 4.8.The repository of water becomes toxic when the natural ecosystem dies off and it takes decades for a lake to recover from such massive poisoning, as can be witnessed by Spirit Lake near Mount St. Helens.

While physically touching acid rain will not do harm, the same compounds responsible for acid rain, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, will cause significant lung problems. The same pollutants enter the lungs, specifically via dry deposits, causing asthma, bronchitis, chronic pneumonia and emphysema.

In the United States measures have been taken to manage and monitor emissions responsible for acid rain. The Clean Air Act of 1990 was the largest step toward achieving those goals with the resulting Acid Rain Program being started and monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency. Reports have shown that emissions have gone down easing the adverse effects on water supplies, forests, soil and human health.