Acid Rain
INTRODUCTION: Acid rain is a great problem in our world. It causes fish and
plants to die in our waters. As well it causes harm to our own race as well,
because we eat these fish, drink this water and eat these plants. It is a
problem that we must all face together and try to get rid of. However acid rain
on it’s own is not the biggest problem. It cause many other problems such as
aluminum poisoning. Acid Rain is deadly.


WHAT IS ACID RAIN?
Acid rain is all the rain, snow, mist etc that falls from the sky onto our
planet that contains an unnatural acidic. It is not to be confused with
uncontaminated rain that falls, for that rain is naturally slightly acidic. It
is caused by today’s industry. When products are manufactured many chemicals are
used to create it. However because of the difficulty and cost of properly
disposing of these products they are often emitted into the atmosphere with
little or no treatment.


The term was first considered to be important about 20 years ago when
scientists in Sweden and Norway first believed that acidic rain may be causing
great ecological damage to the planet. The problem was that by the time that the
scientist found the problem it was already very large. Detecting an acid lake is
often quite difficult. A lake does not become acid over night. It happens over a
period of many years, some times decades. The changes are usually to gradual for
them to be noticed early.

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At the beginning of the 20th century most rivers/lakes like the river
Tovdal in Norway had not yet begun to die. However by 1926 local inspectors were
noticing that many of the lakes were beginning to show signs of death. Fish were
found dead along the banks of many rivers. As the winters ice began to melt off
more and more hundreds upon hundreds more dead fish (trout in particular) were
being found. It was at this time that scientist began to search for the reason.

As the scientists continued to work they found many piles of dead fish, up to
5000 in one pile, further up the river. Divers were sent in to examine the
bottom of the rivers. What they found were many more dead fish. Many live and
dead specimens were taken back to labs across Norway. When the live specimens
were examined they were found to have very little sodium in their blood. This is
typical a typical symptom of acid poisoning. The acid had entered the gills of
the fish and poisoned them so that they were unable to extract salt from the
water to maintain their bodies sodium levels.


Many scientist said that this acid poising was due to the fact that it was
just after the winter and that all the snow and ice was running down into the
streams and lakes. They believed that the snow had been exposed to many natural
phenomena that gave the snow it’s high acid content. Other scientists were not
sure that this theory was correct because at the time that the snow was added to
the lakes and streams the Ph levels would change from around 5.2 to 4.6. They
believed that such a high jump could not be attributed to natural causes. They
believed that it was due to air pollution. They were right. Since the beginning
of the Industrial revolution in England pollution had been affecting all the
trees,soil and rivers in Europe and North America.


However until recently the loses of fish was contained to the southern
parts of Europe. Because of the constant onslaught of acid rain lakes and rivers
began to lose their ability to counter act their affects. Much of the alkaline
elements; such as calcium and limestone; in the soil had been washed away. It is
these lakes that we must be worried about for they will soon become extinct.


A fact that may please fishermen is that in lakes/rivers they tend to catch
older and larger fish. This may please them in the short run however they will
soon have to change lakes for the fish supply will die quickly in these lakes.

The problem is that acid causes difficulties the fish’s reproductive system.

Often fish born in acid lakes do not survive for they are born with birth
defects such as twisted and deformed spinal columns. This is a sign that they
are unable to extract enough calcium from the water to fully develop

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Acid rain refers to all types of precipitation–rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog–that is acidic in nature. Acidic means that these forms of water have a pH lower than the 5.6 average of rainwater. Acid rain kills aquatic life, trees, crops and other vegetation, damages buildings and monuments, corrodes copper and lead piping, damages such man-made things as automobiles, reduces soil fertility and can cause toxic metals to leach into underground drinking water sources.
Rain is naturally acidic because carbon dioxide, found normally in the earth’s atmosphere, reacts with water to form carbonic acid. While pure rain’s acidity is pH 5.6-5.7, actual pH readings vary from place to place depending upon the type and amount of other gases present in the air, such as sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxides.
The term pH refers to the free hydrogen ions (electrically charged atoms) in water and is measured on a scale from 0 to 14. Seven is considered neutral and measurements below seven are acidic while those above it are basic or alkaline. Every point on the pH scale represents a tenfold increase over the previous number. Thus, pH 4 is 10 times more acidic than pH 5 and 100 times more so than pH 6. Similarly, pH 9 is 1O times more basic than pH 8 and 100 times more basic than pH 7.
The acid in acid rain comes from two kinds of air pollutants– sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). These are emitted primarily from utility and smelter smokestacks and automobile, truck and bus exhausts, but they also come from burning wood.
When these pollutants reach the atmosphere they combine with gaseous water in clouds and change to acids–sulphuric acid and nitric acid. Then, rain and snow wash these acids from the air.
Acid rain affects lakes, streams, rivers, bays, ponds and other bodies of water by increasing their acidity until fish and other aquatic creatures can no longer live. Aquatic plants grow best between pH 7.0 and 9.2 (Bourodemos). As acidity increases (pH numbers become lower), submerged aquatic plants decrease and deprive waterfowl of their basic food source. At pH 6, freshwater shrimp cannot survive. At pH 5.5, bottom-dwelling bacterial decomposers begin to die and leave undecomposed leaf litter and other organic debris to collect on the bottom. This deprives plankton–tiny creatures that form the base of the aquatic food chain–of food, so that they too disappear. Below a pH of about 4.5, all fish die.

Acid rain harms more than aquatic life. It also harms vegetation. The forests of the Federal Republic of Germany and elsewhere in Western Europe, for example, are believed to be dying because of acid rain. Scientists believe that acid rain damages the protective waxy coating of leaves and allows acids to diffuse into them, which interrupts the evaporation of water and gas exchange so that the plant no longer can breathe. This stops the plant’s conversion of nutrients and water into a form useful for plant growth and affects crop yields.
Perhaps the most important effects of acid rain on forests result from nutrient leaching, accumulation of toxic metals and the release of toxic aluminum. Nutrient leaching occurs when acid rain adds hydrogen ions to the soil which interact chemically with existing minerals. This displaces calcium, magnesium and potassium from soil particles and deprives trees of nutrition.
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