Acid rain is a kind of air pollution. When coal, oil, or gasoline are burned, they release harmful gases into the air. These gases mix with the moisture that is always present in the air and form weak acids. Wind can carry the acidic droplets huge distances. Eventually, these droplets return to the ground as acid rain or as acid hail, snow, sleet, or even fog.
Acid rain looks, feels, and tastes just like clean rain. For humans, walking in acid rain, or even swimming in a lake polluted by acid rain, is no more dangerous than walking or swimming in clean water. But acid rain is extremely harmful to the environment.
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The Effects of Acid Rain
- When acid rain gets into lakes and streams, it kills the fish and other animals and plants that live there.
- Scandinavia no longer have fishes in many rivers. All the fish have been killed by acid rain.
- Acid rain can also damage plants on land, including farm crops and forests.
- The mid-1980s saw acid rain damage or kill almost half of the trees in Germany’s Black Forest.
- The outside surfaces of stone buildings and monuments can also be corroded, or worn away, by acid rain. Some of the world’s greatest buildings and monuments show signs of damage caused by acid rain. Acid rain eats away at the steel in bridges and railings as well.
Where Does Acid Rain Come From?
Acid rain is not a natural phenomenon, but it’s also not a new thing in the world. The problem began with the Industrial Revolution in the 1700’s. It has been on the increase ever since. In the past, the air in cities was soot filled from thousands of coal fires burning. The soot turned buildings black and produced acid rain. Trees and other plants near large industrial cities were dead or dying. Today, people burn less coal, but there are many more fuel-burning powers stations, cars, trucks, buses, and aircraft. All of these pollute the air and contribute to the production of acid rain.
Reducing Acid Rain
Most of the gases that produce acid rain come from power stations, factories, and vehicles.
- Power stations and factory chimneys can be fitted with devices that remove these gases.
- Cars can be fitted with catalytic converters, which reduce the pollution in exhaust fumes.
Unfortunately, the devices to reduce the acid gases are expensive. Not all governments, companies, and individuals are willing to spend the extra money on them.
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