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Acid Rain And The Effect It Has On Our Environment

944 words - 4 pages

"Acid Rain," or more precisely acidic precipitation, is the term used to describerainfall that has a pH level of less than 5.6--a pH of 7 being neutral. This form of airpollution is currently a subject of great controversy because of the damage it does tot he environment and property worldwide. For the last ten years, this occurrence has brought destruction to thousands of lakes and streams in the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe. It also leads to the deterioration of buildings and statues by reacting with several minerals. Acid rain is formed when oxides of nitrogen and sulfite combine with moisture in the atmosphere to make nitric and sulfuric acids. These acids can be carried away far from its origin. The two primary sources of acid rain are sulfur dioxide (SO2), and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). Sulfur dioxide is a colorless gas released as a by-product of combusted fossil fuels containing sulfur. A variety of industrial processes, such as the production of iron and steel, utility factories, and crude oil processing produce this gas. Sulfur dioxide can also be emitted into the atmosphere by natural disasters or means. This accounts for ten percent of all sulfur dioxide emission, coming from volcanoes, sea spray, plankton, and rotting vegetation. Overall, 69.4 percent of sulfur dioxide is produced by industrial combustion. Only 3.7 percent is caused by transportation . The other chemical that is also chiefly responsible for the make-up of acid rain is nitrogen oxide. Oxides of nitrogen is a term used to describe any compound of nitrogen with any amount of oxygen atoms. Nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen dioxide are all oxides of nitrogen. These gases are by-products of firing processes of extreme high temperatures (automobiles, utility plants), and in chemical industries (fertilizer production). Natural processes such as bacterial action in soil, forest fires, volcanic action, and lightning make up five percent of nitrogen oxide emission. Transportation makes up 43 percent, and 32 percent belongs to industrial combustion. Nitrogen oxide is a dangerous gas by itself. This gas attacks the membranes of the respiratory organs and increases the likelihood of respiratory illness. It also contributes to ozone damage, and forms smog. Nitrogen oxide can spread far from the location it was originated by acid rain. Changes in environment change the wildlife living in that environment. The lowering of pH from 7 to 4 is a dramatic change in environment, and the changes in wildlife reflect it. There are both direct and indirect effects of acid rain. Acid directly interferes with the ability of fish to take in oxygen, salt, and other nutrients needed to stay alive. Acidic conditions in the water cause mucus to form in the gills of fish, and prevents them from absorbing oxygen from the surrounding waters. With a few exceptions adult fish are unable to survive...

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