environmental sciences

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What Is Acid Rain And Its Causes Environmental Sciences Essay

Acid Rain is any form of precipitation containing high percentages of sulphuric and nitric acids. Acid rain mainly occurs in the form of fog, snow and small pieces of dry material that fall on the earth. Acidity of rain is measured using the scale known as "PH".PH ranges from fourteen to zero. Pure water has a ph of 7.0, which is neutral that is neither acidic nor alkaline. The lower the ph of a substance the higher its ph. Normal rain has a ph of about 5.5 that means it slightly acidic, this iii because carbon dioxide dissolves in it( Tyson 142).

Causes of acid rain

Acid rain results from chemical reactions that arise when compounds such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are released in the atmosphere. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides raise high in the atmosphere; they react with water and oxygen in the atmosphere to form chemicals that are acid pollutants. Nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides dissolve in water easily and are carried far by wind. They became part of the rain, snow, sleet, and fog. Sulphur elements are found in coal and oil.

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When oil and coal are burnt in industrial boilers and power plants, sulphur reacts with oxygen to form sulphur dioxide. Sulphur dioxide travels long distances eventually it comes in to contact hydrogen peroxide or ozone, it reacts forming sulphur trioxide .sulphur trioxide dissolves in water forming dilute sulphuric acid. Nitrogen constitutes of 78% of the atmosphere. when heated to high temperatures in the steam boilers and internal combustion engines, it reacts with oxygen to form nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide .nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide dissolve in water forming solutions of nitric and nitrous acids. Human activities are primarily responsible for the formation of acid rain (Tyson 75), however natural causes exists. Volcanic eruptions fires bacterial decompositions and lightening increase the amounts of nitrogen oxides on the surface.

Effects of acid rain

Studies have shown that acid rain have adverse effects on forests, soils and fresh waters, killing aquatic and insect life forms, and cause damages to building as well as human health. Low ph and higher aluminum concentrations in surface water as result of acid rain cause damage to fish and aquatic animals.ph of lower than five destroy fish eggs and a lower ph kill is adult fish. As rivers and lakes ph is lowered, biodiversity is reduced. Soil is damaged by acid rain. Soil microbes are unable to tolerate low ph and are killed. Enzymes of these microbes are denatured by the acidity. Hydronium of acid rain mobilize toxins such as aluminum; this toxins leach away soil essential nutrients and minerals. soil chemistry is affected when base cations, such as magnesium and calcium are carried away there by losing sensitive species .high altitude forest and vegetation are more vulnerable to acid rain ,as they are often surrounded by fog and clouds which are more acidic.

Forests and vegetables are affected by ac id rain when it affects the soil, when calcium is leached away from the soil, tree s become weak, less cold tolerant, winter and may even die. a significant percentage of gases forming acid rain such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide are known to cause illness and premature deaths to human such illness include cancer (Satake 256). Acid rain damages historic monuments and buildings, where they are made of marble and limestone containing calcium carbonate. Calcium compounds react with acid rain forming gysum, which flakes off. Acid rain also increases the rate of oxidation of metals such as copper and bronze. Ozone layer is a protective cover in the atmosphere that protects the environment from ultra violet rays. Many chemicals are being release from the earth such as sulphuraxide and nitrogen oxide gases causing the ozone layer to continually break and its not repairing as quickly. Ozone layer depletion affects human health, agriculture, plant life and marine environment (Satake 364)

Because of the adverse effect of acid rain to both human health and environments, steps are taken to minimize sulphur and nitrogen emissions. Many governments require industries producing energy to clean smoke tracks using scrubbers that trap pollutants before they are released to the environment .alternative energy sources are advocated to restore the ecosystem damaged by acid rain. Individuals can also help minimize acid rain by conserving energy .vehicles as a major user of fossil fuel users can minimize emissions by using public means, biking, carpooling, or walking when it is possible (Satake 159).


Human beings are the principle cause of acid rain through industry emissions and combustion. Acid rain has a negative effect on human health and human environment. Thus, human should strive hard to use different means of energy rather than coal and oils to minimize sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide gases from being emitted.

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