Acid rain2 Paper

This essay has a total of 2909 words and 16 pages.

acid rain2

Acid Rain

Acid rain is a serious problem with disastrous effects. Each day this serious problem
increases, many people believe that this issue is too small to deal with right now this
issue should be met head on and solved before it is too late. In the following paragraphs
I will be discussing the impact has on the wildlife and how our atmosphere is being
destroyed by acid rain.


Although there is very little data, the evidence indicates that in the last twenty to
thirty years the acidity of rain has increased in many parts of the United States.

the United States annually discharges more than 26 million tons of suffer dioxide into the
atmosphere. Just three states, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois are responsible for nearly a
quarter of this total. Overall, two-thirds of the suffer dioxide into the atmosphere over
the United States comes from coal-fired and oil fired plants. Industrial boilers,
smelters, and refineries contribute 26%; commercial institutions and residences 5%; and
transportation 3%. The outlook for future emissions of suffer dioxide is not a bright one.
Between now and the year 2000, United States utilities are expected to double the amount
of coal they

burn. The United States currently pumps some 23 million tons of nitrogen oxides into the
atmosphere in the course of the year.

Transportat ion sources account for 40%; power plants, 30%; industrial sources, 25%; and
commercial institutions and residues, 5%. What makes these figures particularly

distributing is that nitrogen oxide emissions have tripled in the last thirty years.

Acid rain is a cancer eating into the face of Eastern Canada and the North Eastern United
States. One of the main causes of acid rain is sulphur dioxide. Natural sources which 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. When sulphur dioxide reaches the atmosphere, it
oxidizes to first form a sulfate ion. It then becomes sulphuric acid as it joins with
hydrogen atoms in the air and falls back down to earth. Oxidation occurs the most in
clouds and especially in heavily polluted air where other compounds such as ammonia and
ozone help to catalyze the reaction, converting more sulphur dioxide to sulphuric acid.
However, not all of the sulphur dioxide is converted to sulphuric acid. In fact, a
substantial amount can float up into the atmosphere, move over to another area and return
to earth unconverted. The following are the stoichiometric equations for the formation of
sulphuric acid:

S (in coal) O2_ SO2
2 SO2 O2_ 2 SO3
SO3_ H2O H2SO4
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. These reactions are
also catalyzed in heavily polluted clouds where iron, manganese, ammonia and hydrogen
peroxide are present.

In Canada, the main sulfuric acid sources are non-ferrous smelters and power
generation. On both sides of the border, cars and trucks are the main sources for nitric
acid(about 40% of the total), while power generating plants and industrial commercial and
residential fuel combustion together contribute most of the rest. In the air, the sulfur
dioxide and nitrogen oxides can be transformed into sulfuric acid and nitric acid, and

air current can send them thousands of kilometers from the source. When the acids fall to
the earth in any form it will have large impact on the growth or the preservation of

certain wildlife.


One of the direct effects of acid rain is on lakes and its aquatic ecosystems. There are
several routes through which acidic chemicals can enter the lakes. Some chemical
substances exist as dry particles in the air while others enter the lakes as wet particles
such as rain, snow, sleet, hail, dew or fog. In addition, lakes can almost be thought of
as the "sinks" of the earth, where rain that falls on land is drained through the sewage
systems eventually make their way into the lakes. Acid rain that falls onto the earth
washes off the nutrients out of the soil and carries toxic metals that have been released
from the soil into the lakes. Another harmful way in which acids can enter the lakes is
spring acid shock. When snow melts in spring rapidly due to a sudden temperature change,
the acids and chemicals in the snow are released into the soils. The melted snow then runs
off to streams and rivers, and gradually make their way into the lakes. The introduction
of these acids and chemicals into the lakes causes a sudden drastic change in the pH of
the lakes - hence the term "spring acid shock". The aquatic ecosystem has no time to
adjust to the sudden change.

Areas in Ontario mainly southern regions that are near the Great Lakes, such substances as
limestone or other known antacids can neutralize acids entering the body of water

thereby protecting it. However, large areas of Ontario that are near the Pre-Cambrian
Shield, with quartzite or granite based geology and little top soil, there is not enough

buffering capacity to neutralize even small amounts of acid falling on the soil and the
lakes. Therefore over time, the basic environment shifts from an alkaline to a acidic one.

This is why many lakes in the Muskoka, Haliburton, Algonquin, Parry Sound and Manitoulin
districts could lose their fisheries if sulphur emissions are not reduced



Acidity is measured using a pH scale, with the number 7 being neutral. Consequently, a
substance with a pH value of less than 7 is acidic, while one of a value greater than 7 is
basic. It is also worthwhile to note that the pH scale is logarithmic; that is, a
substance of pH of 6 is 10 times more acidic than another with a pH of 7. Generally, the
pH of 5.6 has been used as the baseline in identifying acid rain, although there has been
much debate over the acceptance of this value. Interestingly enough, a pH of 5.6 is the pH
value of carbon dioxide in equilibrium with distilled water. Hence, acid ran is defined as
any rainfall that has an acidity level beyond what is expected in non-polluted rainfall.
In essence, any precipitation that has a pH value of less than 5.6 is considered to be
acid precipitation.

The average mean of pH rainfall in Ontario's Muskoka-Haliburton lake country ranges
between 3.95 and 4.38 about 40 times more acidic than normal rainfall, while storms in
Pennsilvania have rainfall pH at 2.8 it almost has the same rating for vinegar.

Already 140 Ontario lakes are completely dead or dying. An additional 48 000 are sensitive
and vulnerable to acid rain due to the surrounding concentrated acidic soils.


Canada does not have as many people, power plants or automobiles as the United States, and
yet acid rain there has become so severe that Canadian government officials

called it the most pressing environmental issue facing the nation. But it is important to
bear in mind that acid rain is only one segment, of the widespread pollution of the

atmosphere facing the world. Each year the global atmosphere is on the receiving end of 20
billion tons of carbon dioxide, 130 million tons of suffer dioxide, 97 million tons

of hydrocarbons, 53 million tons of nitrogen oxides, more than three million tons of
arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, nickel, zinc and other toxic metals, and a host of

synthetic organic compounds ranging from polychlorinated biphenyls(PCBs) to toxaphene and
other pesticides, a number of which may be capable of causing cancer, birth defects, or
genetic imbalances.


Interactions of pollutants can cause problems. In addition to contributing to acid rain,
nitrogen oxides can react with hydrocarbons to produce ozone, a major air pollutant

responsible in the United States for annual losses of $2 billion to 4.5 billion worth of
wheat, corn, soyabeans, and peanuts. A wide range of interactions can occur many unknown
with toxic metals.

In Canada, Ontario alone has lost the fish in an estimated 4000 lakes and provincial
authorities calculate that Ontario stands to lose the fish in 48 500 more lakes within the
next twenty years if acid rain continues at the present rate.Ontario is not alone, on Nova
Scotia's Eastern most shores, almost every river flowing to the Atlantic Ocean is

poisoned with acid. Further threatening a $2 million a year fishing industry.


Acid rain is killing more than lakes. It can scar the leaves of hardwood forest, wither
ferns and lichens, accelerate the death of coniferous needles, sterilize seeds, and weaken
the forests to a state that is vulnerable to disease infestation and decay. In the soil
the acid neutralizes chemicals vital for growth, strips others from the soil and carries
them to

the lakes and literally retards the respiration of the soil. The rate of forest growth in
the White Mountains of New Hampshire has declined 18% between 1956 and 1965, time of

increasingly intense acidic rainfall. Acid rain no longer falls exclusively on the lakes,
forest, and thin soils of the Northeast it now covers half the continent.
Continues for 8 more pages >>

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