Acid rains, quite simply, is rain that is unusually acidic, which means that it has a higher concentration of Hydrogen ions (H+). Acid rains are harmful for animals, plants and even buildings, especially metallic structures. The degree of harm caused by acid rains depends on the amount of acid that an object comes into contact with; that is, the severity of the acid rains causes varying degrees of harm, but it does cause some amount of harm even in small concentrations. Acid rain is caused by acidic gases such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. While both of these gases are produced by natural events such as volcanic eruptions and lightning, the vast majority of the volume in the atmosphere is due to human activity. These gases are emitted to the atmosphere by burning plastics or effluents from industrial activities. Incineration of waste and power generation by burning fossil fuels are significant contributors to acid rain. Proper waste management, by employing waste management service providers such as Commercial Cleaners Perth, is a good first step to take to contribute towards the global effort against climate change.
Sources of Acid Rain
As mentioned previously, the chemicals responsible for acid rains are sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). These chemicals can oxidise in the atmosphere to form Sulphuric acid and Nitric acid, both of which are strong acids. The dissolution of these acids in rainwater causes acid rain.
Nitrogen oxides are emitted to the atmosphere via the burning of nitrogenous compounds such as food and biological waste. Sulphur and its oxides are emitted by many sources which include burning plastics, rubber etc. but the main contributor is the burning of coal to generate power. The sheer mass of coal burned every day to generate power make this the single largest source of sulphur dioxide, which is oxidised in the burning of the trace amounts of sulphur in coal.
Effects of acid rain
Acid rain falling on water bodies and soil cause the water and soil to become more acidic. This affects the growth of plants (soil) and aquatic life (water). Most fish, snails, frogs, and similar animals comprising the ecosystem surrounding a water body can start to die off or vacate the area due to the increasing acidity. This can have a larger impact on the surrounding ecosystem as animals who prey on these aquatic animals will also move out of the area or starve, leading to the entire ecosystem being lost. Acidic soil also hinders the growth of some plants which might negatively affect animals who feed on such plants.
Acid rains falling directly on animals and humans can cause various skin diseases, inflammation and in severe cases, physical injuries. Prolonged exposure may increase the risk of cancer as some chemicals dissolved in the acidic rainwater may be carcinogenic.
The acidic water can also deteriorate metallic structures such a bridges and roofs of houses. The acid can oxidise the metal and damage these structures. Statues composed of metals and porcelain can dissolve due to the acidity.