Is Acid Rain Harmful to Humans? Some Little-Known Facts
Acid rain is a real problem that affects the entire planet. Acid deposition occurs when sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide gases are released into the atmosphere from sources like power plants or factories. These gases then react with water, forming sulfuric acid and nitric acid in the clouds above us. When it rains, some of this acidic solution comes back down to earth where it can cause widespread damage to our natural resources.
Acid Rain Is the Result of Acid Deposition and Can Show Up in Many Forms
Acid rain is a form of acid deposition, which can show up in many different forms. This type of rain is caused by a combination of acidic gases such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that are released into the atmosphere by power plants and factories.
These emissions are chemically transformed into acidic particles when they interact with water vapour in clouds or fog, which then fall to earth as precipitation—acidic rain!
The other types of acid deposition include dry acid particles (dust particulates coated with sulfuric acid), wet deposition (sulfuric acid mixed with water droplets), snow/ice crystals coated with nitric/sulfuric acids, and fog droplets containing acids.
The chemicals that cause acid rain are emitted into the atmosphere by coal-fired power plants, steel mills, oil refineries, cement kilns, automobile exhausts and other industrial facilities.
These chemicals dissolve in water droplets in clouds and then fall back to earth as rain or snow.
All these types of deposition can cause problems for ecosystems. The only exception is dry acid particles, which do not directly dissolve in water; they must be washed off by rain or snow melt before they can affect groundwater chemistry.
The pH Levels of Rain Acidity Can Vary
Did you know that rain is acidic? While you may be aware of this (or not), the reality is that rainwater’s acidity levels vary significantly.
Some are extremely acidic, some are extremely basic, some are neutral, and some are fairly balanced.
The pH of rain can vary depending on where you are. It comes from an interaction of the atmosphere and the land surface. These processes normally put more pollution into the air above industrialised regions, causing more acidic precipitation.
While we’re not always sure of the causes behind rain acidity, one thing is for sure, its pH level can vary. More specifically, when water vapour condenses, and forms droplets suspended in air — forming clouds.
This process releases carbon dioxide, a colourless and odourless gas with a sour taste, into the atmosphere. When it meets the Sun’s light, this gas turns into carbonic acid.
This natural acidity (a measure of the pH level) found in rain is like that of vinegar, which ranges from 2-4 on the pH scale (1 being most acidic and 14 being most basic).
In comparison, pure water has a pH level of 7 — making it neutral and neither acidic nor alkaline. That said, rain’s pH level can range anywhere between 3-7.
The Effects of Acid Rain Are Widespread and Harmful
Acid rain is a harmful side-effect of pollution. It’s caused by chemical reactions in the atmosphere that produce corrosives, and this can damage plants, animals, and buildings.
The effects are widespread and harmful. The most visible effect is damage to buildings and monuments. Acidic rain can also kill trees and plants, including crops such as wheat, barley, corn, and oats.
The acidity level of water is also affected, the higher the concentration of hydrogen ions (H+) in water, the more acidic it is.
Acid rain is also known to impact human health; exposure to high levels of sulphur dioxide can cause lung problems such as asthma attacks or bronchitis in people with existing respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
This type of pollution has been linked to increased mortality rates from heart attacks and strokes among susceptible people who live near power stations or other sources of sulphur dioxide emissions.
As with other pollutants, scientists are concerned about the effects on human health. They believe that long-term exposure to acidic compounds can affect your immune system, which makes you more likely to get sick.
Acidic compounds may also damage your organs and make it difficult for your body to absorb nutrients needed for healthy growth and development.
Acid Rain Damages Our Forests
Acid rain can cause several problems for our forests, plants, and even animals. The acidity in the rainwater causes damage to the trees and plants, which can eventually kill them if it continues long enough.
The higher levels of acidity in rainwater makes it harder for plants to absorb nutrients from the soil, which leads to less growth and fewer nutrients being available for animals that live on those plants.
The acidic nature of acid rain also causes damage to leaves on trees by increasing their susceptibility to disease and pests. This makes it harder for trees to survive throughout their lifespans.
The effects on forests are often less obvious than those on lakes or streams, but the overall impact is still significant. For example, acidification has been linked to an increased risk of tree death from multiple causes including stress due to drought, disease, or insect infestation.
The damage caused by acid rain on forests has been long known but was not widely publicised until recently when scientists began investigating its effects on trees.
One study found that over 80% of urban forest species suffer some damage from acid rain while only 50% of rural forest species suffer damage from the same source.
The study also found that urban forests are more susceptible because they tend to be smaller than rural forests and therefore have less of a cushion against environmental changes.
Acid Rain Affects Fish and Wildlife Populations
Acid rain can affect the populations of fish and other wildlife in lakes and streams.
Acidification is the process which changes the pH (acidity/alkalinity) of a body of water, making it more acidic. This can have devastating effects on aquatic animal life.
Acidic waters are hostile to most fish species because they disrupt their delicate internal chemistry. This makes it more difficult for fish to absorb vital minerals from their food, leaving them unable to maintain their health and growth. As a result, acid rain may lead to:
- Reduced reproduction rates
- Increased mortality rates
- Reduced egg viability (the ability of an embryo to develop into a healthy adult)
The impact on fish populations is particularly severe in small stream systems with limited dilution potential.
The oceans are becoming increasingly acidic because of rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. This process is known as ocean acidification.
Oceans absorb about one-fourth of the CO2 emitted by human activities each year, and this absorption causes seawater to become more acidic.
In addition, acidification affects only those species that live in freshwater; saltwater fish are not as susceptible because they do not require as much oxygen and can tolerate higher levels of pH disruption than freshwater species.
Seawater pH has decreased from 8.2 to 8.1 since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the 18th century when humans began releasing large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels and deforestation.
It is projected that by 2100, seawater will be 7.8 on average — a 0.3 drop from today’s levels — if no action is taken to curb emissions from human activities such as burning fossil fuels or changing land use patterns (such as deforestation).
Human Health Is Threatened by Acid Rain
Acid rain is a serious threat to human health in many parts of the world. The acidic level of rain can enter our water supply causing pH levels to drop which can disrupt the environment and has been known to cause significant health issues in humans.
Acid rain is caused by sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides being released into the air.
These chemicals react with water vapour to form sulfuric acid and nitric acid, which then fall back down to earth as rain, snow, or hail. Acid rain can also be caused by other types of pollution such as carbon dioxide (CO2), which combines with water vapour to form carbonic acid.
The effects of acid rain on human health are varied and complex, but researchers have found that people exposed to lower pH levels have an increased risk of respiratory illness, such as asthma attacks, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
In addition, high levels of nitric oxide gas can lead to pulmonary vascular disease (PVD), which causes reduced oxygen delivery to vital organs such as the heart, brain, and lungs due to the thickening of the blood vessels around these areas.
There is also some evidence that exposure to low pH levels can increase susceptibility to developing certain cancers such as lung cancer and lymphoma.
Understanding acid deposition can help us prevent it from getting worse and protect our planet for future generations.
Acid rain is a worldwide problem with many causes that are not going to go away unless we make changes. The causes of acid rain are mostly human-made, but there are some natural factors as well.
The most common cause of acid rain is the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil. When these fuels burn, they produce sulphur dioxide, which can react with water in the atmosphere to form sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is one of the strongest acids known to science! It can cause damage to buildings, plants, and animals.
Air pollution from cars and factories also contributes to acid rain because it contains nitric oxides (NO), which react with water vapour in the air to form nitric acid, another strong acid.
Some of the nitric oxide produced in this way can be washed out of the atmosphere by rain, but some remain in the air and react with other chemicals to form even more nitric acid.
Acid rain has a direct effect on plants and trees by damaging their leaves, making them less able to absorb sunlight for photosynthesis. The effects are most noticeable on trees that are already stressed or damaged by pollutants or disease.
Acidic water can also harm fish by killing off their eggs and causing deformities in their offspring.
In addition, acidic water can dissolve metals such as copper, zinc and lead from buildings and bridges, which can then be released into waterways when they are washed away with rainwater runoff.
Acid rain is a form of pollution that occurs when emissions, such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from cars and factories, damage natural resources.
When we think about acid rain, we might think of it as something that only affects plants and animals. But the truth is that acid rain can harm humans too, especially those who live near coal power plants.
This type of pollution has been linked to everything from respiratory issues like asthma attacks to heart disease and even cancer.
Acid rain is a harmful form of precipitation that contains sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other chemicals in the atmosphere.
It can affect both the natural and manmade environments, and cause damage to sensitive ecosystems such as forests and lakes.