Acid Rain became a household term during the 1980s as scientists recognized its connection to unchecked industrial activity and motor vehicle emissions, environmental deterioration and diminished fish and wildlife populations. While acid rain levels in Adirondack Park and elsewhere have decreased somewhat over time, its impacts are still felt globally by aquatic ecosystems worldwide.
Acid rain derives its name from sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), produced by fossil fuel power plants, vehicles, and various industries. When combined with water, oxygen, and chemicals in the atmosphere these gases form sulfuric and nitric acids that combine to form precipitation such as rain, snow, fog or mist.
Winds transport acidic dust particles over long distances from their sources. When conditions permit, these acidic chemicals fall to Earth as part of its atmosphere or they may be carried away by dry weather and incorporated into smokes or clouds forming smokescreens or clouds.
Acids deposited on land become “dry deposition”, and can then be washed into streams and rivers during rainstorms, damaging forests, freshwater supplies, soils, killing insects and eroding stone, brick and concrete structures.
Acid rain can damage both respiratory and urinary systems of individuals, as well as lead to various medical issues. Some examples are:
Scientists conduct rain pH measurements by taking samples across the nation and testing for acidity. A lower pH level indicates more acid rain; high concentrations can be found in northeastern US and parts of Canada.
Rich April strolled the cemetery at Colgate University, pausing before an 1852 white marble pillar that has nearly no legible inscription. Over time, all exposed rocks will erode over time – but this stone has seen more rapid erosion due to being exposed to acid rain than others in non-acid rain environments.
Atmospheric exposure to acid rain can lead to numerous human health concerns. Nitric and sulfuric acids found in acid rain may irritate eyes, mucous membranes, pulmonary edema fluid accumulation in lungs as well as dental erosion and damage of kidneys, lungs, heart and nervous systems.
There are a variety of things we can do to prevent acid rain and safeguard our natural resources. One is to reduce energy consumption through turning off lights and installing insulation. We could also drive less, use carpools, ride our bicycles or take the bus instead – or switch how electricity is generated! Additionally, restricting our use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides could cut back on SO2 and NOx emissions, as well as helping limit their washoff into lakes and streams, leading to toxic algal blooms that deprive aquatic species of oxygen needed for survival – all options can help protect natural resources while keeping us alive while saving natural resources alive and safe!