Thoughts On Acid Rain


Acid rain is a serious problem with disastrous effects.
Each day this serious problem increases, many people
believe that this issue is too small to deal with right now
this issue should be met head on and solved before it is
too late. In the following paragraphs I will be discussing
the impact has on the wildlife and how our atmosphere is
being destroyed by acid rain.

Acid rain is a cancer eating into the face of Eastern
Canada and the North Eastern United States. In Canada, the
main sulphuric acid sources are non-ferrous smelters and
power generation. On both sides of the border, cars and
trucks are the main sources for nitric acid(about 40% of
the total), while power generating plants and industrial
commercial and residential fuel combustion together
contribute most of the rest. In the air, the sulphur
dioxide and nitrogen oxides can be transformed into
sulphuric acid and nitric acid, and air current can send
them thousands of kilometres from the source.When the acids
fall to the earth in any form it will have large impact on
the growth or the preservation of certain wildlife. 

Areas in Ontario mainly southern regions that are near the
Great Lakes, such substances as limestone or other known
antacids can neutralize acids entering the body of water
thereby protecting it. However, large areas of Ontario that
are near the Pre-Cambrian Shield, with quartzite or granite
based geology and little top soil, there is not enough
buffering capacity to neutralize even small amounts of acid
falling on the soil and the lakes. Therefore over time, the
basic environment shifts from an alkaline to a acidic one.
This is why many lakes in the Muskoka,
Haliburton, Algonquin, Parry Sound and Manitoulin districts
could lose their fisheries if sulphur emissions are not
reduced substantially.

The average mean of pH rainfall in Ontario's
Muskoka-Haliburton lake country ranges between 3.95 and
4.38 about 40 times more acidic than normal rainfall, while
storms in Pennsilvania have rainfall pH at 2.8 it almost
has the same rating for vinegar.
Already 140 Ontario lakes are completely dead or dying. An
additional 48 000 are sensitive and vulnerable to acid rain
to the surrounding concentrated acidic soils.
Canada does not have as many people, power plants or
automobiles as the United States, and yet acid rain there
has become so severe that Canadian government officials
called it the most pressing environmental issue facing the
nation. But it is important to bear in mind that acid rain
is only one segment, of the widespread pollution of the
atmosphere facing the world. Each year the global
atmosphere is on the receiving end of 20 billion tons of
carbon dioxide, 130 million tons of suffer dioxide, 97
million tons of hydrocarbons, 53 million tons of nitrogen
oxides, more than three million tons of arsenic, cadmium,
lead, mercury, nickel, zinc and other toxic metals, and a
host of synthetic organic compounds ranging from
polychlorinated biphenyls(PCBs) to toxaphene and other
pesticides, a number of which may be capable of causing
cancer, birth defects, or genetic imbalances.

Interactions of pollutants can cause problems. In addition
to contributing to acid rain, nitrogen oxides can react
with hydrocarbons to produce ozone, a major air pollutant
responsible in the United States for annual losses of $2
billion to 4.5 billion worth of wheat, corn, soyabeans, and
peanuts. A wide range of interactions can occur many
unknown with toxic metals.
In Canada, Ontario alone has lost the fish in an estimated
4000 lakes and provincial authorities calculate that
Ontario stands to lose the fish in 48 500 more lakes within
the next twenty years if acid rain continues at the present
rate.Ontario is not alone, on Nova Scotia's Eastern most
shores, almost every river flowing to the Atlantic Ocean is
poisoned with acid. Further threatening a $2 million a year
fishing industry.
Acid rain is killing more than lakes. It can scar the
leaves of hardwood forest, wither ferns and lichens,
accelerate the death of coniferous needles, sterilize
seeds, and weaken the forests to a state that is vulnerable
to disease infestation and decay. In the soil the acid
neutralizes chemicals vital for growth, strips others from
the soil and carries them to the lakes and literally
retards the respiration of the soil. The rate of forest
growth in the White Mountains of New Hampshire has declined
18% between 1956 and 1965, time of increasingly intense
acidic rainfall.
Acid rain no longer falls exclusively on the lakes, forest,
and thin soils of the Northeast it now covers half the
There is evidence that the rain is destroying the
productivity of the once rich soils themselves, like an
overdose of chemical fertilizer or a gigantic drenching of
vinegar. The damage of such overdosing may not be
repairable or reversible. On some croplands, tomatoes grow
to only half their full weight, and the leaves of radishes
wither. Naturally it rains on cities too, eating away stone
monuments and concrete structures, and corroding the pipes
which channel the water away to the lakes and the cycle is
repeated. Paints and automobile paints have its life reduce
due to the pollution in the atmosphere speeding up the
corrosion process. In some communities the drinking water
is laced with toxic metals freed from metal pipes by the
acidity. As if urban skies were not already grey enough,
typical visibility has declined from 10 to 4 miles, along
the Eastern seaboard, as acid rain turns into smogs. Also,
now there are indicators that the components of acid rain
are a health risk, linked to human respiratory disease.
However, the acidification of water supplies could result
in increased concentrations of metals in plumbing such as
lead, copper and zinc which could result in adverse health
effects. After any period of non-use, water taps at summer
cottages or ski chalets they should run the taps for at
least 60 seconds to flush any excess debris.

Although there is very little data, the evidence indicates
that in the last twenty to thirty years the acidity of rain
has increased in many parts of the United States.
Presently, the United States annually discharges more than
26 million tons of suffer dioxide into the atmosphere. Just
three states, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois are responsible
for nearly a quarter of this total. Overall, two-thirds of
the suffer dioxide into the atmosphere over the United
States comes from coal-fired and oil fired plants.
Industrial boilers, smelters, and refineries contribute
26%; commercial institutions and residences 5%; and
transportation 3%. The outlook for future emissions of
suffer dioxide is not a bright one. Between now and the
year 2000, United States utilities are expected to double
the amount of coal they burn. The United States currently
pumps some 23 million tons of nitrogen oxides into the
atmosphere in the course of the year.
Transportation sources account for 40%; power plants, 30%;
industrial sources, 25%; and commercial institutions and
residues, 5%. What makes these figures particularly
distributing is that nitrogen oxide emissions have tripled
in the last thirty years.
Acid rain is very real and a very threatening problem.
Action by one government is not enough. In order for things
to be done we need to find a way to work together on this
for at least a reduction in the contaminates contributing
to acid rain. Although there are right steps in the right
directions but the government should be cracking down on
factories not using the best filtering systems when
incinerating or if the factory is giving off any other
dangerous fumes. I would like to express this question to


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