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Acid Rain

Essay by   •  September 3, 2010  •  1,109 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,738 Views

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Acid rain is a very big pollution problem in the world. It has killed fish and other aquatic life in many lakes and streams. It harms human health, disfigures monuments and erodes buildings, and, along with other pollutants, threatens forests. The story of acid rain can be compared to the plot of a science fiction movie. In the 1950s an invisible force begins to destroy lakes and rivers, killing trout and salmon. By the 1960s it is harming the waters of eastern Canada and the northeastern United States. High-altitude forests are beginning to fade away. City statues are gradually eaten away. The appearance from the damage of the aliens is starting to appear all over. Just as in science fiction movies, the authorities refuse to warn the alarmed citizens. Also, at the last moment the scientists figure away to destroy the aliens. Unfortunately, fiction and fact falls apart at this point. There is no quick remedy that will wipe out acid rain completely. (Pringle 1-2)

Coal was the main fuel of many industries in the early nineteenth century. Coal contains sulfur and when burning it, it will produce sulfur dioxide. When in the atmosphere, sulfur dioxide may be converted to sulfuric acid (Pringle 8). Acid rain is dispensed across the world by air currents. When attempting to fix local air pollution problems, the solutions actually added to acid rain problems on other parts of the world. High smoke stakes were developed to distribute pollutant acid-laden smoke higher in the atmosphere and spread it elsewhere (Merki 598). This was a quick remedy to a local problem, but harmed other parts of the world. Acid rain is a global problem because it more often than not, spreads over national borders instead of staying in a local spot.

There are several causes of acidification, and various mechanisms by which it may occur. Acid rain falling on water bodies has a direct affect. In areas where soils are acidic, runoff from the soil transports acidic water, which may also contain aluminum, into lakes and rivers. Soil acidification may be caused by acid rain, but other factors may also be involved. For example, if pasture reverts to coniferous acidic runoff even though the rain itself is not acidic. Salty rain leaches acid components out of the soil and transports them to the rivers. (Rivers 1)

The chemical content of acid rain is in itself dangerous to fish and other freshwater organisms. The damage caused by acidification in rivers and lakes is mainly a Scandinavian phenomenon. Further south in Europe, the rocks are richer in calcium and weather more easily, so that the water contains higher concentrations of substances that can neutralize acid inputs. Acidification of rivers is therefore unusual outside Scandinavia, although inputs of acid rain are higher in many other parts of Europe. However, in eastern North America, northern Scotland and parts of the Alps, the geology is more like that of Scandinavia, and there are more acid rivers. (Rivers 1)

Acid rain can be depleted my reduced amounts of air pollution. Air pollution can be reduced in many ways. The best approach is to reduce the amounts of NOx and SO2 being released into the atmosphere. Fitting a catalytic converter to a car can reduce the emissions of NOx by up to ninety percent, but they are very expensive, and cause more carbon dioxide to be released, which contributes to the greenhouse effect, which is another serious environmental issue. SO2 emissions from power stations can be reduced before, during, or after combustion. If fuel with a low sulfur content is burned, not much sulfur dioxide will be found. However, low sulfur fuels are more expensive because they are in greater demand, and although high-sulfur fuels can be treated to reduce their sulfur content, this is very expensive. The SO2 created during combustion can be absorbed if an appropriate chemical, such as limestone, is present as the fuel burns. Once the fuel has been burned, the SO2 can be removed from the exhaust gases. Most systems spray a mixture of limestone and water onto the gases. This mixture reacts with the SO2 to form qypsum, a useful building material. Another option is not to burn fossil fuels, but to use

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