7 Dec 2022


Acid Rain: Causes, Effects, and Solutions

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Academic level: University

Paper type: Research Paper

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Global warming is one of the reasons scientists forecast the end of humanity if the global community does not work together to mitigate the vice. Governments and multinational communities understand the scope of global warming thus introducing policies and engaging in policies such as the Kyoto Protocol in the bid to mitigate global warming and prevent dooming humanity to extinction. However, knowing the different types of pollution and their impacts on human health and the ecosystem. In the browning of leaves in England in the Mid-19th century, Robert Smith, an English scientist, introduced the term acid rain. He claimed that the acidity in the precipitation damaged the leaves. The definition would grow as scientists became more conversant on the issue of acidity in rainfall. The 1980s saw the growth of the studies on acid rain noting that the increased acidity was due to the sulfur oxide (SO 2 ) and nitrogen oxides (NO x ) that once in the atmosphere reacted with water, and oxygen to produce sulphuric, and nitric acid that lower the pH of rainwater (Sivaramanan, 2015). The studies demonstrated that the rainwater from the unpolluted atmosphere was acidic due to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the acidity was mild as its pH was 5.6. Pollution from the SO 2 and NO x reduced the pH to the value of 4.0, which is termed acid rain. The assumption that acid rain is a term that only refers to precipitation is wrong as acid rain can either be wet or dry thus making it clear that other forms of acid rain that do not include precipitation exists. Therefore, to understand the cause, effects, and mitigation strategies utilized by the different governments to reduce the consequences of acid rain, this paper answers the questions listed below. This study aims to answer the above questions to help understand acid rain, its causes, mitigation, and the success of the mitigation strategies. As earlier stated, SO 2 and NO x reaction with oxygen and water causes acid rain. The SO 2 and NO x from different sources such as gaseous emissions from factories such as metal smelting companies, coal burning, and fossil fuel emissions from motor vehicle fumes among other sources of SO 2 and NO x cause acid rain pollution. However, is acid rain a point-source or nonpoint-source pollutant? According to US EPA (2014), acid rain pollutes the environment through wet or dry acid rain. Wet acid rain is in form of snow, precipitation, and other ways that include frozen or liquid emission of sulfuric and nitric acid (US EPA, 2014). Dry acid rain is mainly due to dry weather or climate that limits the formation of clouds that result in precipitation or freezing the nitric and sulfuric acid. Therefore, due to the dry atmosphere, the acid reacts with the ozone and oxides of nitrogen in absence of water vapor thus resulting in the acid chemicals breaking down to particles that can remain in the atmosphere or land or on trees among other natural or artificial bodies. Geologists tend to concur on defining pollutants based on their sources. Point sources pollutants are termed as pollutants that have a definite source or source, for instance, fumes from a factory is a point-source pollutant or water pollution from the pipes. Non-Point sources, on the other hand, refer to pollutants that do not have a single exposure to the environment (US EPA, 2014). Based on the two definitions it is clear that acid rain is a non-point source pollutant. The different ways acid rain pollutes the environment and the essence that the precipitation can happen in different areas due to the winds blowing the polluted clouds demonstrate the lack of a single or known way the acidity pollutes the water, air, and land. The dry acid rain complements the argument due to the rapid exposure it causes. According to Sivaramanan (2015), acid rain is one of the major environmental problems due to its effects on aquatic animals and plants. The study demonstrated that acid rain precipitation in large quantities results in soil erosion hence the increment of pollutants that drain to the lakes and rivers. The study noted that acidic inflow in non-buffering freshwater lakes or water bodies results in increased acidity in the surface thus affecting the deposition of over 50% and 75% of streams and lakes in the U.S. respectively (Sivaramanan, 2015). The study demonstrated that the acidity of the water results in the release of aluminum from the soft rocks or granite, which affects the fish. The aluminum concentration tends to stress the fish and aquatic animals leading to depreciated body and growth or death for mature freshwater fish. These changes make it difficult to access food thus affecting the food chain. Other aquatic studies demonstrate that the death of some of the species in such bodies affects the food chain, for instance, the death of mayfly results in starvation of prey such as frogs that are able to adapt to the acidic conditions (Sidder, 2018). The sulphuric and nitric acid also affects the shell-forming mollusks, coral reefs, and other aquatic living things thus destabilizing the ecosystem. Dry and wet acid rain also interferes with land plants, for instance, the landing of the particles on leaves inhibits photosynthesis whereas reactions and toxicity of the soil eliminate nutrients and nitrogen from the soil (Kumar, 2017). These reactions and changes in nutrient composition affect the growth of roots making the plants die or weaken which also affects the ecosystem by destabilizing the food chain. Lastly, apart from the limited food and other changes in the ecosystem wet acid rain does not have any direct impact on humans. However, the corrosion of metals and building can result in increased risks of accidents. Dry acid rain causes asthma and lung cancer among other precipitation ailments. According to the US EPA (2013), the changes and improvements of the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) under the Clean Air Act have increased the ability of the government through the EPA that is responsible for measuring and determining the acceptable emissions of SO 2 and NO x into the environment or atmosphere. The CAIR uses the Acid Rain Program (ARP) and Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and Litigation (CSAPR) with Canada to reduce the acid rain in the two countries. The employment of such policies and modern technologies to measure acidic conditions has reduced air pollution by over 85% in 2012 compared to that of the 1980s (US EPA Progress Report, 2013). There are limited technologies implemented to reduce the level of SO 2 and NO x however, past studies demonstrated that fuel switching would reduce such emissions. The development of electronic cars and the promotion of green energy in industries provide better mechanisms to reduce air pollution. According to Guttikunda, Johnson, Liu & Shah (2004), the use of sorbent injection or fluidized bed combustion (FBC), technology reduces the emissions of SO 2 and NO x. The study demonstrated that these technologies enabled the increase of non-pressurized thus reducing the emissions (Guttikunda, Johnson, Liu & Shah, 2004). Other technologies such as flue gas desulfurization (FGD) tend to reduce the sulphuric emissions from factories that use coal as their source of energy. Changes in funnels and technologies such as the FBC are successful in reducing sulphuric emissions. The study in China demonstrated that such technologies reduced emissions but only involved combustion or boilers in companies. Traffic and power companies increment makes it clear that such a technology is ineffective in reducing the SO 2 and NO x. Therefore, the EPA's ability to limit factor emissions is great but it needs to change the policies that would increase the use of green energy power generation and use of electric cars. Liming has been effective but it is a reaction rather than a mitigation strategy. Therefore, support of green energy is the best strategy to implement.


Guttikunda, S., Johnson, t., Liu, f., & Shah, J. (2004). Programs to Control Air Pollution and Acid Rain.  National Academy of Sciences .

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Kumar, S., (2017). Acid Rain- The Major Cause of Pollution: Its Causes, Effects. International Journal of Applied Chemistry , Vol. 13 (1): 53-58.

Sidder, A. (2018). Effects of Acid Rain, Climate Change on Freshwater Lakes.  Eos 99 .

Sivaramanan, S. (2015). Acid Rain, Causes, Effects and Control Strategies. Central Environmental Authority .

US EPA (2014). Acid rain in New England, A brief History. Retrieved on July 23, 2018, from http://www.epa.gov/region1/eco/acidrain/history.html.

US EPA Progress Report (2013). 2012 Progress report, clean air markets. Retrieved on July 23, 2018, from http://www.epa.gov/airmarkets/progress/progress-reports.html.

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Acid Rain: Causes, Effects, and Solutions.


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