Essay on Acid Rain

Acid rain, or acid deposition, is a broad term that includes any form of acid component precipitation, with a pH of 5.2 or below, such as sulfuric or nitric acid, which, in wet or dry forms, falls from the atmosphere to the ground. This includes acidic rain, snow, fog, hail etc. These components are mainly produced due to human activities resulting in the emission of Sulphur dioxide and Nitrogen oxides. In this essay, we shall discuss the causes and consequences of Acid rain.

Long and Short Acid Rain Essays in English for Students and Children 

Long Essay on Acid Rain 

When sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOX) are emitted into the atmosphere and transported through wind and air currents, it causes acid rain. SO2 and NOX react to form sulfuric and nitric acids with water, oxygen and other chemicals. These are then mixed before falling to the ground with water and other materials. Acid deposition can lower the pH of surface water and lower biodiversity in acid-sensitive landscapes. It weakens and increases the susceptibility of trees to damage caused by other stressors, such as drought, extreme cold, and pests. Acid rain also depletes important plant nutrients and buffers, such as calcium and magnesium, from the soil, and may release aluminium in its toxic dissolved form, bound to soil particles and rock. It contributes to the corrosion of surfaces exposed to air pollution and is responsible for the deterioration of buildings and monuments made of limestone and marble.

Sources of SO2 and NOx

While natural sources such as volcanoes account for a small portion of the SO2 and NOX that cause acid rain, most of it comes from the burning of fossil fuels. In the atmosphere, the major sources of SO2 and NOX are:

  • Burning fossil fuels to produce electricity. Electric power generators account for two-thirds of SO2 and one-fourth of NOX in the atmosphere.

  • Heavy machinery and vehicles.

  • Production, petroleum refineries and other industries.

Over long distances and across borders, winds can blow SO2 and NOX, making acid rain an issue for all and not just those who live near these sources.

Effects of Acid Rain

Acid-sensitive areas are those that are prone to acidification due to the low buffering capacity or low acid-neutralizing capacity of the region's soils (ANC). It has been shown that acid rain has adverse effects on forests, freshwater and soils, kills insects and aquatic forms of life, causes damage to buildings and has an impact on human health.

  • Effects on Lakes and Rivers

Both lower pH and higher concentrations of aluminium in surface water resulting from acid rain can cause harm to fish and other aquatic animals.  The conversion of elemental mercury to its deadliest form: methyl mercury, a neurological toxin, can be accelerated by high acidity, particularly from sulfur deposition. The bioaccumulation of methylmercury in fish tissues is the main reason for public health advisory recommending a reduction in the consumption of fish from fresh and marine waters. Increasing amounts of acid deposition in sensitive areas in Europe and North America have caused tens of thousands of lakes and streams to become much more acidic than in previous decades. Aluminium can damage fish gills and thus impair respiration in conjunction with rising acidity in aquatic environments.

  • Acidification of Soil

Acidic water enters the plant and causes the dissolution and transport of important plant minerals, which ultimately causes the plant to die from lack of nutritional minerals. In more extreme cases, the same damage process takes place as in minor cases, which is the removal of essential minerals, but at a much faster rate. Likewise, acid rain that falls on the soil and the leaves of the plant causes the waxy leaf cuticle to dry up, which ultimately causes a rapid loss of water from the plant to the outside atmosphere and ultimately causes the plant to die.

  • Forests- Acid Rain Can Affect Trees in Many Ways, it Can:

  1. Dissociate and flush away the minerals and nutrients in the soil, which help the trees grow.

  2. It causes harmful substances like aluminium to be released into the soil.   

  3. It wears away the leaf's waxy protective coating, preventing them from properly photosynthesizing.

A combination of these effects weakens the trees, which means that diseases and insects can easily attack them or they can be hurt by bad weather.

How Do We Tackle the Effects?    

  • One of the cheapest ways to produce electricity is still to burn fossil fuels, so people are now researching new ways to burn fuel that doesn't produce so much pollution.

  • Spraying a mixture of water and powdered limestones into smokestacks can wash away the Sulphur present in it.

  • Cars are now equipped with catalytic converters which remove three hazardous exhaust gas chemicals.

  • Sulphur emitted by power production can be reduced by Fluidized bed combustion.

  • The amount of nitrogen oxide produced from a motor vehicle can be reduced by Vehicle emissions control.

Short Essay on Acid Rain

Acid rain is unusually acidified downpour or any other form of precipitation, meaning it has elevated levels of hydrogen ions (low pH). It can affect plants, aquatic animals and infrastructure in a harmful way. Acid rain is caused by sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions that react in the atmosphere with water molecules to produce acids. In 1852, Scottish chemist Robert Angus Smith first used the phrase acid rain during his study of rainwater chemistry near industrial cities in England and Scotland. However, acid rain was not recognized as a regional environmental issue until the late 1960s and early 1970s, affecting large areas of western Europe and eastern North America. As a global environmental issue, climate change frequently overshadows it.

What Can We Do?

Governments need to invest in researching various ways of generating energy. Hydroelectric power and nuclear power are two other sources that are currently used. As far as acid rain goes, these are "clean" but what other impact do they have on our environment? Other sources could be solar energy or windmills, but in places where it is not very windy or sunny, how reliable would they be? There are different advantages and costs for all energy sources, and all these must be weighed before any government decides which of them it will use.

Resource Conservation

There are various ways in which we can conserve resources to reduce pollution resulting in acid rain.

  • Increasing government public transport subsidies to encourage people to use public transport rather than always travelling by car. 

  • By turning off lights when they are not being used and using energy-saving appliances, each person can make an effort to save energy - when less electricity is being used, pollution from power plants decreases.

  • Walking, cycling, and sharing cars all reduce vehicle pollution.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Can Acid Rain Damage Buildings?

Ans. Acid rain can damage buildings, monuments, and statues with large amounts of carbonate, particularly those made from rocks, like limestone and marble. Acids react with the calcium compounds in the stones in the rain to form gypsum, which then flakes off. On old gravestones, acid rain can cause the inscriptions to become completely illegible. The corrosion rate of metals, especially iron, steel, copper and bronze, is also increased by acid rain.

2. Is Acid Rain Still an Issue?

Ans. The phenomenon called acid rain was a well-known environmental issue in Europe and North America during the 1970s and '80s, appearing frequently in news features. Since that time, stories about climate change, global warming, biodiversity issues, and other environmental concerns have supplanted the visibility of acid rain in the media. Acid rain still occurs, but because of strong air pollution regulations in those regions, its impact on Europe and North America is far less than it was in the 1970s and '80s.