Acid Rain Description and Analysis

Uploaded by Treebox on Nov 2, 2004

ACID RAIN What is Acid Rain? The majority of people consider rain to be an undamaging weather occurrence. However the increase in acidity of rain is both unsafe and damaging. In order to fully understand the term acidity, it is essential to know something about the pH scale. This scale has a range of 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Anything below 7 (0-6) is known to be acidic and anything above 7 (8-14) is alkaline. A change in only one unit is equal to a tenfold increase in the strength of the acid or base. Therefore a unit change from pH 6 to pH4 is equal to a 10 x 10 increase in it acidity. Taking the above into consideration, it is easy to see how the normal phenomenon ³rain´ is becoming more and more acidic as its pH has dropped from around 6and 7 to about 4.3and 5.3.This occurrence is known as Acid Rain and was first noted in1852 by the English chemist called Robert Angus Smith. Acid rain in other words is the term used to describe rainfall that has a pH level below5.6. It is a form of air pollution that is currently a theme of huge debate due to its wide spread damages. It is responsible for the destruction of thousands of lakes and streams in the United States, Canada and parts of Europe. How Acid Rain is formed The two most important primary sources of acid rain are sulphur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). Sulphur is a colourless, pungent gas produce during the combustion of fossil fuels containing sculpture. A variety of industrial processes such as the production of steel and iron and crude oil processing produce this gas. This gas is also emitted into the atmosphere by natural means. Ten percent of the sculpture in the atmosphere comes from volcanoes, sea spray, plankton and decomposing vegetation. The other gas primarily accountable for the formation of acid rain is nitrogen oxide. The term µoxides of nitrogen¶ describes any compound of nitrogen with any amount of oxygen atoms. The only oxides of nitrogen are nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. These gases are produced by firing processes at very high temperatures (vehicle) and chemical industries. There are natural processes such as forest fires, volcanoes and bacterial action in soil that also emit nitrogen oxides. Transportation and industrial combustion also contribute to the emissions of nitrogen oxides. The acidity of acid rain does not only depend on the release levels of these gases but also on the chemical combination sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides interrelate in the atmosphere. Both gases undergo a few chemical reactions before they become the acids present in acid rain. The two main phases are the gas phase and the aqueous phase. As far as sulpur dioxide is concerned there is a range of possible reactions that may lead to the oxidation of the gas in the atmosphere each having a different degree of success. One option is the photooxidation of the gas by ultraviolet light. This reaction has been found to be an unimportant supplier to the creation of sulphuric acid. Another route that is more common is the one where sulphur dioxide is oxidized to form a sulphite ion. SO2 (g) + o2 (g) à SO32After this the sulphite ion forms sulphuric acid when it comes into contact with the moisture in the atmosphere. SO32- +H2O (l)à H2SO4 (aq) This reaction takes place quickly therefore the construction sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere is thought to lead to this kind of oxidation and form sulphuric acid. The photooxidation method is much slower due to the absence of a catalyst. A third reaction for sulphur dioxide to become sulphuric acid is by the oxidation by ozone. All the reactions mentioned to this point are gas state reactions. In the aqueous phase sulphur dioxide exists as three kinds: [S(IV)]à[SO2(aq)] + [HSO32]+[SO32] There is a dissociation that consists of two parts: SO2 (aq)à H++HSO3HSO3- (aq)àH+ + SO32The oxidation of aqueous sulphur dioxide depends on catalysts like iron and manganese. The oxidation of sulphur dioxide is most widespread in clouds and particularly in greatly polluted air where there are abundant amounts of ammonia and ozone, which act as catalysts in the formation of sulphuric acid from sulphur dioxide. However, not all the sulphur dioxide becomes sulphuric acid, as a lot of it floats up into the atmosphere and is transported to other areas and returns to earth unchanged. Nitrogen oxides like sulphur dioxide rise into the atmosphere and are oxidized in clouds to form nitric acid. Very polluted clouds where traces of manganese, hydrogen peroxide and iron are present provide catalysts for theses reactions. Nitrogen oxides are mainly emitted into the atmosphere by vehicle exhausts. They react with water to form nitric acid in the atmosphere. NO2 (g)+H2O (l)àHNO3 (aq)+HNO2(aq) [gas phase] In the aqueous phase there are three equilibria that have to be considered for the oxidation of nitrogen oxide. * 2NO2(g)+H2O(l) 2H++NO3- +NO2* NO (g)+NO2(g)+H2O (l) 2H+ +2NO2* 3NO2(g)+H2O(l) 2H+ +2NO3-+2NO(g) The limited pressures of nitrogen oxides present in the low atmosphere, and the low solubility of nitrogen oxides limit the above reactions. There is an increase in the rate of the reactions only with the use of metal catalysts like in the case of the aqueous oxidation of sulphur dioxide.

The effects of Acid Rain Scientists have noticed that over the years some forests seem to be growing more and more slowly for no obvious reason. After the collection of information on the chemistry and the biology of the forests it has been proved that this is due to acid rain. When acid rain falls, the acidic rainwater dissolves the nutrients and helpful materials from the soil. These minerals are then washed away before trees other plants can use them to grow. The acid rain also helps release toxic substances such as aluminum into the soil. This is o due to the fact that metals like this are bound to the soil under normal conditions, but the added dissolving act of hydrogen ions causes rocks and small bound soil particles to break down. When acid precipitation is regular leaves are likely to lose their waxy protective coat. This loss makes the plant open to any disease. When the leaves are damaged the plant cannot produce adequate food energy for it to survive. When the plant is weak it is defenseless to disease, insects that may kill it. Acid rain also affects aquatic organisms. It enters lakes in several ways but the most common route is when it is drained through sewage systems that lead to lakes. The euphoric acid present in acid rain interferes with the fish¶s¶ ability to take in oxygen, salts and nutrients. Acid molecules cause the formation of mucus to form in their gills not allowing them to absorb oxygen well. Additionally the low pH level does not allow the calcium levels of the fish to be maintained causing the eggs during reproduction to be weak and brittle. Sometimes when acid rain runs off the land it carries some fertilizers along into the lakes .The fertilizers induce the growth of sea plants causing eutrophication. Apart from natural ecosystems, acid rain also affects man-made materials and buildings. Limestone, marble and sandstone are all very easily dissolved by acid rain. Textiles, paints, metals and ceramics can readily be decayed. Man-made materials are slowly depreciated with normal rainfall but acid rain speeds up this process. However, most importantly acid rain can affect the health of human beings. It harms us via the atmosphere or through the soil from where we get our food. Acid rain causes the release of toxic metals that may be absorbed by drinking water, crops or animals that may later consumed by humans. These could cause nerve damage to children or acute brain damage or even death. Acid precipitation is very harmful to the respiratory system. Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide secretion may lead to dry coughs, asthma, headaches, eye, and nose and throat irritation. It has the ability of making breathing very difficult and may give rise to diseases, which could possibly lead to death. How acid rain can be prevented Sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere can be reduced either by fitting desulphurization plants to power stations or by changing the fuel or the way it is burned. The main suppliers of nitrogen oxides are motor vehicles and industries. Flue gases can be dealt with so that most of the nitrogen oxides are removed. Catalytic converters can be installed in the exhaust systems of vehicles. These convert nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxides and unburned hydrocarbons into a cleaner state. Conclusion Overall, acid rain is a problem that should not be ignored. This occurrence ruins anything it comes into contact with. By affecting the environment acid rain affects humans on the long run as well. What we can do, to reduce the emission of gases that cause acid rain is to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Walking and public transportation can reduce tons of nitrogen oxide emissions. The use of less energy is beneficial to the atmosphere as energy comes from fossil fuels, which may lead to acid rain.

If it was possible to peer into the future and see the environmental consequences of mankind¶s actions, humans¶ harmful contributions to the highly acidic rain levels would be apparent. Seeing the possibility of a tragic environment in the future would change the ways we treat our environment today and forever. The environment receives its main punishments from a variety of sources, ranging from car smog to industrial smog and waste. Acid rain, fog, sleet and snow all have severely harmful affects on our environment. In order to protect our environment, humans need to be conscious of the results of their actions and act responsibly to slow down, if not stop, the negative effects of acid rain on our plant, animal and human life. Acid rain is rain with a low PH level. A scale ranging from zero to fourteen defines the ph scale, with zero representing the most acidic, fourteen representing the most basic ph levels and seven representing neutral. Acid rain

can formulate from sulfur and nitrogen, which is emmited by cars and coal fired generators. America and Europe are the leaders in the war against acid rain, and are fighting to protect our health and environment. One way these two regions are attempting to reduce acid rain is by encouraging the use of natural gases rather than coal in power plants. This is useful because natural gases contain less sulfur. Acid rain is detrimental to all living organisms and needs to be decreased. Acid rain affects the entire environment, especially plants and animals. One of the most harmful effects acid rain has on the ecosystem is its destruction of plant life. Acid rain containing highly acidic ph levels also greatly affects animal lives. After falling, acid rain flows directly from the plants, through the watershed and into a stream, river or lake, where it can dramatically affect aquatic life. During the flow of acid rain through soils and into the watershed system, aluminum is picked up and dispersed into the nearby streams, rivers and lakes. Aquatic life can live with a below normal acid level, but the additional aluminum deposited into the reservoir greatly affects the fish. All breathing organisms are also affected by the acid rain pollutants distributed into the air. The major source of these air pollutants is nitrogen oxide from vehicles and industrial sites where fossil fuels are burned. Forest fires, often caused either deliberately or accidentally by man, are another source of pollution. Ironically enough the polluter ends up being the polluted. Humans are affected by their own mistakes. Mankind depends upon plants and animals for food. Due to acid rain, the entire supply of fish in certain lakes has been wiped out. In addition to loss of plant and animal life as food sources, acid rain gets into the food we eat, the water we drink, as well as the air we breathe, and it doesn¶t stop there. Acid rain also affects the buildings we live in and the cars we drive. There are changes we can make to save ourselves and the environment. To help with acid rain problems environmentalists have come up with some astounding and revolutionary ideas. One idea is to lower the use of fossil fuels by using cars operating on battery power and fuel cells, which in turn will lower the negative affects acid rain has on our environment. The changes we have put our environment through can be reversed. In order to protect our environment, humans need to act responsibly to help slow down, if not stop, the negative effects acid rain has on our plant, animal and human life before it is too late. The effects of acid rain have been a very controversial issue because the environmental concerns associated with acid rain conflict with our capitalistic society. Humans are improving their lives with inventions such as the automobile and industrial plants, but these inventions are damaging the environment which is necessary for human survival. Despite all the negative aspects associated with acid rain and the depletion of our food and water sources, there is good news. We learn from our mistakes. Changing our actions now would not solely better our own lives, but would also benefit all of mankind in the future

What are the main types of pollution, and what can be done to prevent pollution or to reduce its effects? Media coverage of pollution of our air and water and land often shocks us. Environmental research has given us valuable information about the different aspects of pollution, and it behoves us to be aware of our often inadvertent interference with the environment so that we will be able to take intelligent and appropriate steps to avert a possible catastrophe -- our own destruction through environmental pollution. Pollution can affect what we eat, our air and the water we drink. Pollution can be incidental, usually the result of an accident as in Bhopal in India or at Chernobyil in the former USSR. Then there is persistent pollution - pollution that goes on all the time but does not receive as much attention as incidental pollution. We are all familiar with the pollution caused by thick smoke from factories and the damage caused to the ozone layer of the atmosphere by the use of aerosol sprays. Air is polluted by substances that may occur as solid particles, liquid droplets, gases or as mixtures of these forms. Carbon monoxide (CO) is the most abundant and widely distributed in the air we breathe. Anthropogenic source contributes most to this type of pollution. The presence of CO in motor-car exhaust is well known. Other pollutants in emissions of internal combustion engines are hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. Air is also polluted by sulphur oxides. Apart from these gases there are small, solid particles and liquid droplets collectively called particulates which are feared to affect the respiratory system. Modification of the internal combustion engines and development of exhaust system reactors are two measures to control pollution by motor-car emissions. The four types of equipment used to control particulate emissions are gravity settling chamber, cyclone collector, wet

scrubbers and electrostatic precipitators. The signs of water pollution are obvious: disgusting odours from lakes and beaches, shortage of drinking water, the toll on fish population and oil floating on the surface of water. Pollutants from such sources as sewage, industrial wastes and effluent from slaughterhouses reduce dissolved oxygen in water which is a fundamental requirement for animal and plant life in water. Lakes suffer from acidification. Acidity damages aquatic life. Burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, in power stations, factories, engines and other combustion processes produce sulphur and nitrogen gases which combine with oxygen and water vapour and finally causes acid rain. Generally water has buffering ions to neutralise acidity. When it lacks them, alkaline substances can be added. Environmental damage caused by acid rain can also be lessened by reducing the amount of sulphur and nitrogen gases released into the atmosphere. Our dependence on oil-based technology leads to oil pollution of water, especially the sea. Oil spills such as the blowout in 1969 at Santa Barbara when 10,000 tons of oil entered the ocean are serious enough but they represent the source for less than 10% of the total oil that enters the marine environment annually. Waste oil and grease from industries contribute significantly to marine pollution. Oil films in the sea retard its intake of oxygen and animal life is affected. Water birds are damaged when they are smeared by oil. Fish and lobsters that live in the bottom are killed and washed ashore. To prevent oil spill in harbours, floating booms are used. Another method of combating this pollution is the use of water bubble barriers. Certain chemicals are also used to gel or solidify oil. Then there are mechanical methods of clean-up. Tap water almost always contains harmless amounts of organic and inorganic substances. Inorganic substances such as lead and nitrates are cause of concern. Lead is necessary for the human

body, but it should not be more than 3 milligrams per week per person. But dissolved lead pipes used in the distribution network aids lead to dissolve. To prevent this safer materials are to be used. Another measure is to make water slightly alkaline by adding lime and soda ash. The concentration of nitrates in drinking water should not exceed 50 milligrams per litre. Treated sewage contains nitrates and it pollutes river water. Fertilisers used on land contain nitrates and they are washed down to rivers by rain. Nitrates can be treated at water works by a process called biological denitrification. Man pollutes his environment by continuous and indiscriminate release of human and industrial waste. It is important that we realise our mistake and take appropriate action to save ourselves and the future generations.

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