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Acid rain, or acid deposition, is a broad term that includes any form of precipitation with acidic components, such as sulfuric or nitric acid that fall to the ground from the atmosphere in wet or dry forms. This can include rain, snow, fog, hail or even dust that is acidic.
FORMS OF ACID RAIN:There are two forms in which acid deposition occurs – wet and dry. Both are discussed below:
• Wet Deposition:
When the wind blows the acidic chemicals in the air to the areas where the weather is wet, the acids fall to the ground in the form of rain, sleet, fog, snow or mist. It removes acid from the atmosphere and deposit them on the earth’s surface. When this acid flows through the ground, it affects large number of plants, animals and aquatic life. The water from drain flows into rivers and canals which is them mixed up with sea water, thereby affecting marine habitats.
• Dry Deposition:
If the wind blows the acidic chemicals in the air to the areas where the weather is dry, the acidic pollutants slip into dust or smoke and fall to the ground as dry particles. These stick to the ground and other surfaces such as cars, houses, trees and buildings. Almost 50% of the acidic pollutants in the atmosphere fall back through dry deposition. These acidic pollutants can be washed away from earth surface by rainstorms.
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) released into the air by fossil-fuel power plants, vehicles and oil refineries are the biggest cause of acid rain today, according to the EPA. Two thirds of sulfur dioxide and one fourth of nitrogen oxide found in the atmosphere come from electric power generators. A chemical reaction happens when sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides mix with water, oxygen and other chemicals in the air. They then become sulfuric and nitric acids that mix with precipitation and fall to the ground. Precipitation is considered acidic when its pH level is about 5.2 or below, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. The normal pH of rain is around 5.6
• Effect on Soil:
Acid rain highly impacts on soil chemistry and biology. It means, soil microbes and biological activity as well as soil chemical compositions such as soil pH are damaged or reversed due to the effects of acid rain. The soil needs to maintain an optimum pH level for the continuity of biological activity. When acid rains seep into the soil, it means higher soil pH, which damages or reverses soil biological and chemical activities. Hence, sensitive soil microorganisms that cannot adapt to changes in pH are killed. High soil acidity also denatures enzymes for the soil microbes. On the same breadth, hydrogen ions of acid rain leach away vital minerals and nutrients such as calcium and magnesium.
• Effect on Health Implications:
Acid rain may not have direct effects on human health. However, the dry depositions in the air that form acid rain can negatively impact human health by causing respiratory problems and difficulty in breathing when inhaled. Children and those who already have respiratory health conditions such as asthma are adversely affected.Headaches and irritations of the nose, throat and eyes are some of the mild implications. Intensified levels of the acidic depositions are linked to risks of developing heart and lung problems such as asthma and bronchitis, and even cancer. When we drink tap water contaminated with acid rain, it can damage our brains
There are several solutions to stopping manmade acid rain. Regulating the emissions coming from vehicles and buildings is an important step, according to the EPA. This can be done by restricting the use of fossil fuels and focusing on more sustainable energy sources such as solar and wind power.Also, each person can do their part by reducing their vehicle use. Using public transportation, walking, riding a bike or carpooling is a good start, according to the EPA. People can also reduce their use of electricity, which is widely created with fossil fuels, or switch to a solar plan. Many electricity companies offer solar packages to their customers that require no installation and low costs.
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