Ann is a member of the Greening Forward Staff and can be followed on Twitter at @greeningforward
by Ann Troung
Acid Rain has been a continual issue in our environment. It has damaging effects to many aspects of our world; it harms our bodies of water, plants, animals, buildings, and forests. Acid rain is created by sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NO2) reacting with water in the atmosphere to create this acidic substance (pH less than 7). These emissions come from power plants, factories that rely on burning fossil fuels such as coal, and cars. The compounds can be blown across many borders, reaching over hundreds of miles and damaging a wider spectrum of our planet. Most of the acid rain originates in industrialized areas where many factories prevail like China and Russia. Acid rain has become more of an issue as industrialization and population grew. While acid rain can be created naturally by things like volcanic activity and lightning, its main cause is from manmade activity. With the rise in industrialization paired with the upsurge in population on our planet, acid rain is becoming even more widespread and dangerous to our environment.
The damage that acid rain has brought to our society can be evident in the erosion of our stone buildings or paint-peeled structures, but there is a lot of damage brought by acid rain that may not be as clear to our eyes. This is the destruction brought to our plants and animals. For example, birds who nest in trees suffer from defective eggs due to this rain. Snails and clams are sensitive to acid rain. Amphibians have to live in acidified ponds which affect their eggs and young. Fish have suffered many deformities like reduced growth rates and reproductive failures. Aside from damages to animals, other living things such as plants have suffered from acid rain as well. Acid rain has caused injury and sometimes even death to some forests. Tree leaves are susceptible to acid rain, tree nutrients become limited, and their soil is exposed to toxic substances released from the rain. In addition to damages to our ecosystem, acid rain even affects our own health. The pollutants can be inhaled deep into our lungs causing diseases like asthma or bronchitis. These particles could be carried everywhere including indoors.
Although acid rain was discovered in the mid-1800s, scientists did not start observing it until the 1960s. Awareness for this phenomenon did not begin until the 1970s. Many organizations such as the EPA have taken steps to reduce acid rain emissions into the environment. The use of “cleaner” coal containing less amounts of sulfur has been tried. Use of natural gas which contains less sulfur than coal can help reduce these emissions. A better idea than the last two suggestions would be to use alternative energy sources! Many scientists are looking to this solution in which we could use solar energy, geothermal energy, wind energy, etc. to replace the harmful fossil fuels. Batteries and natural gas are now available to power automobiles. Limestone, a basic substance, has been used in lakes to restore neutrality.
But not only can governmental agencies help, but you can also help reduce this harmful substance in our environment either by taking your own action or spreading awareness for it by word of mouth. Although your contribution to stop acid rain may be small compared to what has preexisted in our environment, every little bit counts. Riding your bike instead of driving your car can help to reduce some amounts released into the air that day. Suggesting your parents to switch to a battery power car, using energy efficient appliances, carpooling – are all some ways to reduce amounts of acidity in our atmosphere. Even the smallest amounts of reduction can make the biggest changes. Imagine if everyone contributed – our rain would become more neutral and less polluted, creating a cleaner and healthier environment!