Causes and Effects of Acid Rain

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About this sample


Words: 1416 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Dec 18, 2018

Words: 1416|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Dec 18, 2018

Table of contents

  1. Defination:
  2. How It Happens:
  3. Cause:
  4. Efeect:
  5. Ways to Overcome:


Precipitation or rain with a high concentration of acids produced by, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and other such gases which result from the combustion of fossil fuels. This has a destructive effect on buildings, aquatic life, and plant.

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Certain pollutants in the air made the rain acidic and now the rain is called acid rain. Acid rain is a type of acid deposition. It can appear in many forms. Rain, fog, snow, or sleet which is wet deposition that has become more acidic than normal. Another form of acid deposition, is dry deposition. This is when dust particle and gaseous become acidic. Sometimes for very long distances, both dry and wet deposition can be carried by the wind. Acid deposition in dry and wet forms falls on tress, cars, and buildings can make lakes acidic. People can inhale acid deposition in dry form and this can cause health problems in some people.

How It Happens:

Due to the dissolution of carbon dioxide forming weak carbonic acid, rain is naturally acidic. Rain that has a higher hydrogen ion concentration than about 10-5 M is referred as acid rain. Due to the dissolution of acidic oxides in the atmosphere, acid rain occurs. Geothermal hot springs, industrial processes and volcanoes produce sulphur dioxide by metal extraction from sulphide ores and burning fossil fuels such as brown coal.

Nitrogen dioxide is the other major acidic oxide that contributes to the formation of acid rain. In high localised temperatures, nitric oxide is formed. To produce nitrogen dioxide, lightning strikes and naturally reacts in the atmosphere. In the high temperatures of combustion chambers of power stations and motor vehicles, nitrogen dioxide is also produced.

Formation of Nitrogen Dioxide: N2(g) + 2O2(g) -> 2NO2(g)

Both nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide are acidic oxides and react with water to form acids.

Sulphurous acid is formed by sulphur dioxide reacting with water.

SO2(g) + H2O(l) -> H2SO3(aq)

The reaction between sulphurous acid and oxygen to form sulfuric acid is catalyse by the substances in the upper atmosphere.

2H2SO3(aq) + O2(g) -> 2H2SO4(aq)

To form a mixture of nitric acid and nitrous acid, nitrogen dioxide reacts with water.

2NO2(g) + H2O(l) -> HNO3(aq) + HNO2(aq)

The reaction between nitrous acid and oxygen is catalyst by the substances in the atmosphere causing the formation of more nitric acid.

2HNO2(aq) + O2(g) -> 2HNO3(aq)

Both nitric acid and sulfuric acid are soluble in water. They are the major acids present in acid rain. These strong acids are also brought to the surface as this forms and falls onto the Earth’s surface, causing harmful effects on the built and the natural environment.


    1. Human activities

Chemical gas emissions such as nitrogen and sulphur which are leaded by human activities are the primary contributors to acid rain. The activities include air pollution sources emitting nitrogen and sulphur gases like automobiles, power generation facilities, and factories. The biggest contributor to gaseous emissions leading to acid rain is in particular, use of coal for electrical power generation. High scores of gaseous emissions on daily basis into the air also release by factories and automobiles especially in highly industrialized areas and urban regions with large amount of car traffic. To form various acidic compounds such as nitric acid, ammonium nitrate, and sulfuric acid, these gases react in the atmosphere with oxygen, water, and other chemicals. These areas experience exceedingly high amounts of acid rain, as a result. These acidic compounds are blow by existing wind over large areas across borders. Then they will fall back to the ground in other form of precipitation or of acid rain. it flows across the surface, absorbs into the soil and enters into rivers and lakes and finally gets mixed up with sea water, upon reaching the surface of earth. Primarily gases occurring from electric power generation such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) are responsible for acid rain.

    1. Natural sources:

Volcanic emissions is the major natural causal agent for acid rain. To create higher than normal amounts of acid rain or any other form of precipitation such as snow and fog to an extent of affecting health of residents and vegetation cover within the surrounding is caused by acid producing gases is emitted by volcanoes. The acid rain forming gases is also generated by biological processes within the environment, wildfires and decaying vegetation. A typical example of a major biological contributor to sulphur containing elements into the atmosphere is dimethyl sulphide. Lighting strikes also naturally produces nitric oxides. It reacts with water molecules by electrical activity to produce nitric acid. This will form acid rain.


    1. Damages building and objects:

Acid rain can also have a damaging effect on many objects, including cars, monuments statues and buildings. Paint begins to peel of and stone statues to begin to appear old and worn down, which reduces their beauty and value because of the chemicals found in acid rain.

    1. Effect on Soil:

Soil biology and chemistry is highly impacts by acid rain. Due to the effects of acid rain, biological activity and soil microbes as well as soil chemical compositions such as soil pH are damaged or reversed. For the continuity of biological activity, the soil needs to maintain an optimum pH level. Higher soil pH, which damages or reverses soil chemical and biological activities when acid rains seep into the soil. Hence, soil microorganisms that are sensitive that cannot adapt to changes in pH will be killed. enzymes for the soil microbes are denatured by high soil acidity. Nutrients and vital minerals such as magnesium and calcium are leach away by hydrogen ions of acid rain.

    1. Harms forests:

Forests can be extremely harmed by acid rain. Acid rain that enters the ground can dissolve nutrients, such as calcium and magnesium that is need by tress to be healthy. Aluminium is being released into the soil which is caused by acid rain. This make it very difficult for the trees to take up water. Trees such as fir trees or spruce that are located in mountainous regions at higher elevations are at greater risk because they are exposed to acidic fog and clouds, which contain greater amounts of acid than rain or snow. important nutrients from their leaves and needles are strip by the acidic fog and clouds. This loss of nutrients makes it easier for infections, insects, and cold weather to damage trees and forests.

    1. Public Health:

Nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide gases when in atmosphere, their particulate matter derivatives like nitrates and sulphates, degrades visibility. This can cause accidents, leading to injuries and deaths. Acid rain does not directly affect human health. This is because acid rain water is very dilute to cause serious health problems. However, also known as gaseous particulates in the air, the dry depositions which in this case are nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide can cause serious health problems when inhaled. lung and heart problems such as bronchitis and asthma can be caused by intensified level of acid deposition in dry form in the air.

Ways to Overcome:

    1. Cleaning up exhaust pipes and smokestacks:

Major sources of the pollutants that cause acid rain are trucks and cars. Only one car doesn’t produce much pollution but all cars on the road added together create lots of pollution. Therefore, car manufacturers are required to reduce the amount of other pollutants and nitrogen oxides released by new cars. Catalytic converter is a type of technology used in cars. To reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides released by cars this piece of equipment has been used for over 20 years. Cleaner fuels, such as natural gas can also be used by new cars.

    1. Use alternative energy sources:

There is a wide range of alternative energy sources, besides fossil fuels that can generate electrical power. These include nuclear power, hydropower, solar energy, geothermal energy, and wind energy. Instead of using fossil fuels, harnessing these energy sources can offer effective electrical power alternatives. Batteries, natural gas, and fuel cells also substitute use of fossil fuel as cleaner energy sources. All energy sources have economic costs and environmental as well as benefits, as of today. Using sustainable energy that can protect the future is the only solution.

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    1. Individuals:

By conserving energy, individuals can also help prevent acid rain. fewer chemicals power plants will emit if less electricity people use in their homes. Vehicles are also major fossil fuel users. By using public transportation, simply walking wherever possible, biking, or carpooling, drivers can reduce emissions.


  1. The growth rate of spruce trees in the Green Mountains of Vermont declined by 50% between 1963 and 1973 due to acid rain.
  2. Photos taken approximately 60 years apart show evidence of rapid deterioration due to acid rain. (refer appendix 20)
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Cite this Essay

Causes and Effects of Acid Rain. (2018, December 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 10, 2023, from
“Causes and Effects of Acid Rain.” GradesFixer, 17 Dec. 2018,
Causes and Effects of Acid Rain. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 10 Dec. 2023].
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