What Is Acid Rain?

Acid Rain Basics

Acid rain is a rainfall that is unnaturally acidic in nature, usually caused by the inclusion of nitric and sulfuric acids from the emissions of chemicals from industrial plants in the region.

When nitrous oxides and sulfur oxide are pumped into the atmosphere, those chemical compounds react with oxygen and water in the air, creating clouds that contain nitric acid and sulfuric acid. The next time it rains, the rain water will come down as “acid rain”.

Most acid rain is produced from gases released by the burning of fossil fuels. Roughly 2/3rds of the acid rain in the United States is produced by the burning of coal in industrial plants. This is why acid rain appears in regions that are heavily industrialized with coal-burning plants.

History of Acid Rain

Acid rain was first discovered in 1852, roughly a 60 to 70 after the Industrial Revolution began in England and during the period that is now known as the Second Industrial Revolution (1850), when industrialization picked up pace in advanced countries. This discovery noted a mere mention and the phenomenon was not studied for over a century, when the much heavier industrialization of the 20th century began to create more common and more widespread instances of acid rain.

Scientists in the 1960’s and 1970’s began to notice the acidic rainfall in industrial regions, as well as lakes that contained no life. With studies of the effects of acid rain, environmentalists and ecologists began to note the aquatic life of lakes saturated with acid rain died from unsafe living conditions: they were killed by the increasing levels of acid in the water.

The U.S. Congress authorized a 10-year study of acid rain in 1980. By the 1990’s, it was determined that some 5%-6% of American lakes do not sustain life due to the appearance of acidic rain.

This was followed by emissions laws to reduce CO2 and other compounds which cause acid rain. Since that time, emissions laws have been passed in 28 US states. As a result, acid rain has been reduced by roughly 65% in the most affected regions.

Does Acid Rain Harm Humans?

Studies have shown that acid rain is likely to cause harm human beings. When fine particles of something harmful to the human body enter the air and eventual enter the human body, they can cause diseases like cancer. People breathing air in areas where acid rain occurs are more likely to get cancer and other diseases.

Besides, damage to the ecosystem has harmful effects on human society. Fish are a major link in many food chains. If fish are needlessly killed, it can have a damaging effect on the entire food chain. When enough of the wrong kind of fish die, that can make the price of fish and fish products increase. When even more die, it can damage the food supply for all kinds of animals, including humans.

Where Is Acid Rain Worst?

The New England states were the ones that first noticed acid rain, but their ecosystems have improved in recent decades. New York State is heavily affected by acid rain. Other U.S. states also are affected, as is southeastern Canada.

Southeastern China and Taiwan are also affected by acid rain. Scandinavian countries have suffered from acid rain. Other places that might become trouble areas are Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the western portions of South Africa, West Africa, Sri Lanka and Southern India.

Countries where the need to develop quickly overrides environmental concerns are where acid rain is most likely to appear in the future.

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