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Acid rain is defined as any rainfall that has an acidity level beyond what is expected in non-polluted rainfall. Any precipitation that has a pH value of less than 5.6 is considered to be acid precipitation.
One of the main causes of acid rain is sulfur dioxide. Natural sources that emit this gas are volcanoes, sea spray, rotting vegetation, and plankton. However, the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are largely to be blamed for approximately half of the emissions of this gas in the world.
Nitric oxide and nitric dioxide are also components of acid rain. Its sources are mainly from power stations and exhaust fumes. Like sulfur dioxide, these nitrogen oxides rise into the atmosphere and are oxidized in clouds to form nitric acid.
Acid rain has drastic effects on our environment. It causes lakes and rivers to become acidic, killing off fish. Short-term increases in acid levels kill lots of fish, but the greatest threat is from long-term increases, which stop the fish reproducing. Plants and algae in lakes also suffer from increased acid levels. When the pH gets down to 4.5, virtually everything is dead.
How does acid rain affect humans? Among one of the serious side effects of acid pollution on humans are respiratory problems. The SO2 and NO2 emissions give rise to respiratory problems such as asthma, dry coughs, headaches, eye, nose, and throat irritations.
The best approach to acid rain is to reduce the amount of Nitrogen Oxides and Sulfur dioxides being released into the atmosphere. Fitting a catalytic converter to a car can reduce the emissions of nitrogen oxides by up to 90 percent, but they are very expensive, and cause more carbon dioxide to be released, which contributes to the greenhouse effect.
Sulfur Dioxide emissions from power stations can be reduced before, during, or after combustion.
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Another option is not to burn fossil fuels, but to use alternative energy sources. All these methods for reducing acid gases are expensive, and have drawbacks, so laws have been passed to force businesses to use them. The best way to reduce them is not to use as much energy in the first place. By turning off the lights when you leave a room or not using a car for short trips, you can help reduce acid gases.
In conclusion, the two primary sources of acid rain are sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides. Automobiles are the main source of nitrogen oxide emissions, and utility factories are the main source for sulfur dioxide emissions. These gases evaporate into the atmosphere and then oxidized in clouds to form nitric or nitrous acid and sulfuric acid. When these acids fall back on to the earth, they do not cause damage just to the environment but also to human health. Acid rain kills plant life and destroys life in lakes and ponds. The pollutants in acid rain causes problem in human respiratory systems. The pollutants attack humans indirectly through the foods they consumed. They effected human health directly when humans inhale the pollutants. Governments have passed laws to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, but it is no use unless people start to work together in stopping the release of these pollutants. If the acid rain destroys our environment, eventually it will destroy us as well.