Air Pollution and its Harmful Effects

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Air Pollution and its Harmful Effects “Air Pollution, addition of harmful substances to the atmosphere resulting in damage to the environment, human health, and quality of life.” (Encarta Air Pollution) “Damage” may be quite an understatement on this topic. I believe that mass extinction might be more than damaging to the quality of life. I seem to be “jumping the gun” here but as you will see air pollution is a very deadly environmental concern. In the United States alone, air pollution has been a serious environmental and public health problem since the early part of the 1900’s. Acid Rain, Ozone Depletion, Smog, and Global Warming are all the result of air pollution. This could possibly be the single most devastating factor in the dissipation of our Eco-system, as we know it. Acid Rain is a term that consists of acid rain, snow, fog, and particles. It is caused by sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides released by power plants vehicles and other sources such as gasses, and oils. (EPA Acid Rain) Acid rain effects trees, soil, farms, and surface waters. When the acid in rain comes in contact with an object it immediately starts a chemical reaction. A pH scale measures the acidity level of a substance in numerical order, 0-14, 0 being pure acid, 7.5 the most neutral point, and 14 being the highest alkalinity. (Encarta Acid Rain pg. 2) Acid rain eats away at the nutrients in the topsoil needed by plants and wildlife. The soils natural alkaline can sometimes neutralize the acid, but in places where the soil is thin the alkalinity is poor. In Vermont we have low alkalinity because our land is mostly comprised of granite. (Encarta Acid Rain pg. 2) Trees and plants are also at risk because of the acidic soil. It slows tree growth, as well as eats holes through the vulnerable leaves. Once acid and the metals they dissolve weaken trees, they are more susceptible to other harms like insects, drought, and cold weather. (Encarta) Higher elevations are at more risk because they are closer to the “deadly” clouds. (Encarta Acid Rain pg. 2) In the worst cases trees have physical damage to the roots and leaves, reduced canopy cover, crown dieback, a reduced growth rate and finally whole tree death. (EFFECTS OF ACID RAIN ON TERRESTRIAL ECOSYSTEMS) Crops are generally less at risk to acid rain than trees. Most farms are in thick topsoil conditions where alkalines can neutralize the acid.
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