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The impact of Acid Rain on the Environment and Human Health

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Introduction

The impact of Acid Rain on the Environment and Human Health What is acid rain? Acid rain is a broad term used to describe several ways that acids fall out of the atmosphere. A more precise term used is acid deposition that has two parts, wet and dry. Wet deposition: Refers to acidic rain, fog and snow, it affects a variety of animals and plants as it flows over and through the ground. The affects depend on many factors including how acidic the water is, the chemistry of the soils involved and type of living things that rely on the water i.e. fish, trees. Dry deposition: This refers to acidic gases and particles with over a half of the acidity in the atmosphere falling back to earth through dry deposition. These particles are blown by the wind into buildings, cars, homes and trees. They can also be washed from trees and other surfaces by rainstorms. When this occurs the runoff water adds those acids to the acidic rain making the land more acidic than falling rain alone. ...read more.

Middle

In addition acid rain accelerates the decay of building materials, paints, sculptures and statues. Effects of Acid Rain on Human Health The pollutants that cause acid rain (SO2 and NOx) can directly damage human health. These gases react with gases in the atmosphere to form sulphate and nitrate particles, which can travel to the lungs (by inhalation). They have been linked to respiratory problems such as dry coughs, headaches and eye/nose/throat irritations, as well as asthma, bronchitis and heart failure. If there were less nitrogen oxide particles in the atmosphere, they would be less able to react with the volatile organic compound that from ozone, and this decreases the risk of the 'Greenhouse Effect'. The ozone has also been linked with increased risk of lung inflammation (i.e. asthma and emphysema). These chemicals present in acid rain can harm humans indirectly too, as fruits and vegetables absorb toxic metals dissolved in the water (rain), and therefore appear in animal tissue later on. This may not affect the animals themselves but it does affect humans when the animals are consumed. ...read more.

Conclusion

The disturbance in balance of salt (especially Calcium ions) in the fish's tissue can cause poor reproduction (eggs are too brittle or weak). Calcium deficiencies also result in weak spines and deformities. Eutrophication (when nitrogen from fertilisers is washed into lakes, causing an excess of algae to grow) results in an increase in oxygen production, but due to the increased death of fish from the acid rain, decomposition uses up most of this oxygen. This leaves very little for the surviving fish to take in. Indirectly, sulphuric acid dissociates heavy metals (such as Aluminium ions) from the soil, so it accumulates in lakes and subsequently kills the fish. This has a knock-on effect on the creatures further down the food chain, as a fish deficit results in malnutrition of another animal. This is a chart showing the effects of pH on aquatics creatures; pH LEVEL EFFECTS <6 *Basic forms of food die off. Eg. Mayflies and stoneflies are important food sources for fish. They can't survive at this pH level. <5.5 *Fish cannot reproduce. *Young have difficulty staying alive. *More deformed adult fish due to lack of nutrients. *Fish die of suffocation. <5.0 *Fish population die off. <4.0 *Very different lifeforms, if any, from before. ...read more.

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