The Problem of Acid Rain

The Problem of Acid Rain
what causes acid rain When power stations, factories, houses and cars release pollution into the air it has chemicals in it called sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. sulphur dioxide: Man-made sulphur dioxide comes mainly from burning fossils fuels in power stations. It then mixes with water in the atmosphere to make sulphuric acid, which will later fall as acid rain. nitrogen oxides: Nitrogen oxides are also man-made and mainly come from car exhausts. These gases also go into the atmosphere and mix with water to form nitric acid, which once again falls as acid rain. what effects does acid rain have ON the environment ? soils, trees and plants. Trees and plants need healthy soil to grow in. Acid rain can damage these important soils by destroying many vital substances and washing away the nutrients
Soils naturally contain small amounts of poisonous minerals such as mercury and aluminium. Normally these minerals do not cause serious problems, but when acid rain falls on the ground and soil and the acidity of the soil increases, chemical reactions occur allowing the poisonous minerals to be taken up by the plant roots. The trees and plants are then damaged and any animals eating them will absorb the poisons, which will stay in their bodies. Damage to the soil is one of the most serious effects of acid rain. trees Acid rain and other pollutants can have harmful effects on forests and many areas of the world have reported that their forests are dying. The acid takes important minerals away from the leaves and the soil. Without these minerals, trees and plants cannot grow properly. Also rain falling directly onto the soil increases its acidity. Damaged trees lose their needles or leaves, have stunted growth and damaged bark. This makes it easier for fungi and insects to attack the tree, and as a result the tree may die. [image] Acid rain not only damages soil but can also affect the trees directly. Pollutants can block or damage the little pores on the leaves through which the plant takes in the air it needs to survive. lakes and water Acid rain can damage the water and the wildlife in lakes. A lake that has been affected by acid rain looks clean and crystal clear, but contains no life. Most wild plants and animals that live in clean, unpolluted lakes cannot live in acid waters. Fish are poisoned by the aluminium which is washed out of the ground into the lakes. Lakes also receive rainfall directly from the sky. A healthy lake has a pH of around 6.5 and a large number of plants, insects and fish can live there. In addition, there are a number of animals and birds that feed on the plentiful food in a healthy lake. As the lake becomes more acidic (the pH gets smaller) the fish find it more difficult to reproduce successfully, as the young fish find it difficult to live in the high levels of acidity and die. It is not only the acid in the water that kills them, but also poisonous minerals like aluminium that are washed out of the surrounding ground into the water. The birds that eat the fish also begin to suffer as the harmful minerals build up inside their bodies. All over the world there are lakes that have suffered from the effects of acid rain. Unfortunately, there is less wildlife in and around these lakes because a lot of it has died. buildings Soft building stones have always been naturally worn away by the effects of rain and wind, but in recent years the amount of damage has increased. This is because of acid rain. Famous buildings like the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Taj Mahal in India and St. Paul?s Cathedral in London have all been damaged by this sort of air pollution. Much of the damage is caused by dry deposition. Ordinary houses and other structures can also be badly damaged. You may be able to see some of them on your way to school; your school may be damaged if it is old. When sulphur pollutants fall on to buildings made from limestone and sandstone they react with minerals in the stone to form a powdery substance that can be washed away by rain. Acid rain can also damage stained glass windows in churches, railway lines and steel bridges. The acid rain slowly eats away at them all. Building materials crumble away, metals are corroded, the colour of paint is spoiled, leather is weakened and crusts form on the surface of glass. [image] These sorts of things happened more in the 1950s and 60s when there was more sulphur dioxide in the air. health The pollution from cars and factories that causes acid rain can also damage our health. Drinking water is contaminated with chemicals released by acid rain. In some parts of Sweden childrens hair has reportedly turned green from acid water containing high levels of copper. Aluminium and lead in water can be poisonous at high levels. In Norway and Sweden lots of people get their drinking water from wells. Many of these contain high levels of metals such as aluminium and so peoples health can suffer. Although acidic lakes can be harmful to wildlife they are quite safe for humans to swim in. what can BE done TO reduce acid rain? Steps can be taken to control the problem of acid rain, but lots of money is needed to make them work. The gases which come from factory chimneys can be sprayed to remove some of the sulphur dioxide in them. One way of fighting the effects of acid rain is by dropping lime into lakes and onto forests. This reduces acidity and is called ?liming?. Lime is an alkali made by crushing limestone rock. Liming has to be repeated every 2 to 5 years and it is expensive. Liming will not solve the problem of acid rain, to do that we must cut down on the amount of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that are produced. Power stations can be fitted with special equipment which reduces the amount of pollutants given off when fuel is burned. If we used electricity more carefully, we would not have to make so much, so there would be less pollution. Pollution from cars can be reduced by fitting the exhaust with a special filter called a catalytic converter. Reducing the amount of car journeys made and travelling by bus, train or bike instead can also help to stop air pollution. Acid rain is caused by burning coal, oil, petrol and gas. It would be better to change to types of energy that do not cause acid rain, like sun, wind and wave power.

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