Acid Rain: a Serious Threat to the Environment, Product of Pollution

Learn what it is and how we can stop it

Acid rain is considered to be those precipitations with high concentrations of sulfuric and nitratic acid. It causes significant damage to vegetation and nitrogen-fixing microorganisms. A very important indirect effect is the impoverishment of certain essential nutrients so that plants and trees cannot obtain these and become more vulnerable to pests.

Causes of acid rain.

It is a natural phenomenon caused by, among other things, the emission of chemicals during volcanic eruptions and the decomposition of plants. However, the greater incidence of acid rain in our day is caused by human action, especially due to the use of fossil fuels (oil and coal), which comes from factories, vehicles, power plants and boilers.

The burning of these fuels generates nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and trioxide, which pass into the atmosphere, reacting with water in suspension and other substances, which generates acid rain that can be spread over hundreds of kilometers. Industrialized countries are the main emitters of polluting gases that are responsible for climate change.

To know the acidity and alkalinity of a substance, a pH scale is used, considering a level of 7.0 as neutral. From that level, the lower it is the more acid that substance will be. Normal rainfall has an approximate pH of 5.6, while acid generally has a pH between 4.2 and 4.4.

Effects of acid rain.

Although the popular imaginary makes us think that acid rain is that which corrodes the skin, the effect of acid rain is less spectacular, although not less harmful. First, acid rain fatally affects natural bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, and seas.

It causes a change in acidity that destroys algae and plankton, and increases the mortality of fish. Forest masses are also victims of this phenomenon, by devastating the microorganisms that fix nitrogen and directly destroying the leaves and branches by mere contact.

Not only are organic elements disrupted by acid rain, but also this acidity dissolves calcium carbonate and deteriorates marble and limestone. It scourges of agricultural areas because it de-ionizes the soil, impoverishing it and causing stress to the plants. Also, it changes and deteriorates the natural conditions of aquatic ecosystems, impacting the food chain and affecting a significant number of plant and animal species.

Impact of acid rain on people.

As for the impact it directly has on humans, physical contact with this type of rain is not harmful in itself immediately. What is dangerous are the nitrate and sulfate particles that are produced, which travel through the air that we inhale while breathing? In the latter case, long exposure to this type of particles could lead to serious respiratory diseases.

Animals also die.

Acid rain affects the calcium in the soil, thus insects, snails and other invertebrates with a calcium shell die. As aluminum is released from the soil, acid rain destroys the gills of adult fish and suffocates them. It also makes the fish egg membranes too hard, preventing the offspring from breaking and leaving.

What we can do to avoid acid rain.

We cannot avoid volcanic eruptions, but we can fight to significantly reduce pollutant emissions. Humans are the main causes of acid rain and its consequences, so if we want to avoid them, we will have to change our habits of consumption and use of natural resources.

Among some of the proposed solutions are:

* Lower the level of sulfur in fossil fuels.

* Reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.

* Promote the use of natural gas in industry.

* Boost electric transport.

* Implement the three-way catalytic converter.

* Addition of alkaline compounds to natural bodies of water to neutralize pH.

* Increased use of public transport

The damages that are caused to our planet are due to negative human actions. Phenomena such as acid rain, global warming, and environmental pollution are challenges that must be resolved, from the high spheres of the different governments of the world to each of us individuals, since the problems they generate will produce irreversible damage to life itself.

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SOURCEEdixon Colmenarez
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