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Acid Rain

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Chemistry Assignment Acid Rain Introduction Acid rain as the name suggests is rain that is acidic, the term is used to describe rain with a pH below 5, before the industrial revolution rain had a typical pH of 5 to 6 this was before the increase in air pollution brought about by the burning of fossil fuels, that are burned in factories, vehicles and power stations. The term "acid rain" was first used over a hundred years ago by the British chemist Robert Angus Smith. When he realized that the smoke from human activity could change the acidity of precipitation, despite this it was not until the 1950's that concern was raised about the environmental effect and even then this situation was allowed to continue to rise until it reached crisis proportions in the late 1970's The only forms of air pollution were caused by geological events for example volcano eruptions, lightning and bacterial action in soils etc. The increase of certain gasses in the air, sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbons and nitrogen oxides being the main ones, leads to them being absorbed into it the water vapour that is present in the atmosphere at high altitudes this reaction is increased by the energy from sun light, As the sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides react with the water vapour, oxygen and other oxidants a mild solution of sulphuric acid and nitric acid are formed. ...read more.


This effect is mainly destructive to the limestone content of the building, bridge etc. but another effect is the corrosion of metals in cars etc. Acid rain has had a devastating effect on the environment, because it only takes a small increase in the pH of rain water to harm plants and animals that live near areas such as rivers and lakes, This acidic rain can damage plants and trees in several ways, in high concentrations the leaves an the trees and plants are destroyed by the rain simply falling on them, this prolonged defoliation will starve the tree of food and kill it. The rain will also fall onto the soil washing out ions such as magnesium and calcium this depletion of minerals that are available to the plants and tree will also kill them. As the plants and trees that are most susceptible to acid rain are killed off they leave the remaining ones vulnerable because of soil erosion that is caused by the destruction of foliage. Animals such as birds and fish that live on or in the rivers and lakes are killed as the water becomes more acidic and toxic metals such as aluminium and mercury are washed out of the chemical compounds in the soils and into the river and lake water. An example of this can be found in Sweden where almost 10,000 lakes are contaminated with levels of mercury that are so high that people are advised not to eat any fish that are caught in them. ...read more.


This carbon store that has taken millions to form is now being burned as fuel and the carbon it converted into energy and carbon dioxide. This results in massive amounts of new greenhouse gasses being formed faster then the earth's environment can reduce them by photosynthesis in plants and trees etc. My conclusion is that there must be an immediate reduction in the emission greenhouse gasses, gasses that form acid rain and CFC's. The best approach is to reduce the gasses by the conservation of energy but where this is not practical there are many alternatives, for example fitting a catalytic converter to a car will reduce its nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 90% (this will unfortunately also increase the carbon dioxide) Sulphur dioxide may be reduced from power station etc. by adding chemicals to it during combustion, (limestone) it can be further reduced by treating the combustion gasses with a spray mixture of water and limestone, this does form a saleable by product (gypsum), used in plaster and other building materials. It is also important to use new technologies that are more energy efficient these include compact fluorescent lamps that can reduce energy consumption by up to 75% compared with traditional incandescent lamps, electrical powered cars, and high levels of thermal insulation in buildings, combined with the increase in renewable energy from wind, wave and solar power. This will reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas most responsible for global warming. ...read more.

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