Saturday, October 23, 2010

Acid Rain - Its Effects and What You Can Do to Help:

Acid rain is relatively unseen and hard to detect, but it is a widespread serious problem that probably affects the area where you live today. Acid rain is defined as rain that has a higher acidic content than normal due to unnatural (human produced) processes. The severity of the problem in your area depends on factors ranging from how close you are to conventional coal-fired power plants, how much rainfall there is total, and upper and lower atmosphere wind currents.

If only the effects of acid rain were as innocuous as the definition! In North America, for example, the problem has progressed so that rainwater can have anywhere from 1000% to 7000% too much acid content. Standing water, where some evaporation has occured, or water that has been absorbed and filtered by the soil can have an even larger acid content. Rainwater that is too acidic can cause many types of problem, such as:

- Acid rain can defoliate trees (making them lose their leaves or needles). This can eventually lead to the tree dying if there is no intervention. Trees can also suffer from stunted growth, and become weakened so that they are vulnerable to weather, disease, and insects.

- When lakes are seriously damaged by acid rain fish die off, birds die from eating "toxic" fish, and humans cannot swim in them

- Buildings and other structures can be corroded by acid rain. In addition, other objects can be affected such as bridges, underground pipes, and artwork on historical buildings.

- Currently, both the railway and airline industries have to be diligent to repair the corrosive damage done by acid rain.

- Humans can become seriously ill and can even die from the effects of acid rain because it can cause respiratory problems, particularly in those who are already vulnerable such as people with asthma.

Acid rain is caused by smoke and gases that are given off by factories and cars. Simply put, the pollutants in the exhaust go into the atmosphere, and become acid that comes back down mixed with rain. A great deal of acid rain is produced when coal is burned to produce electricity. There are ways to clean the coal, called clean coal technology, but these methods are expensive and would probably require government subsidies or new technological breakthroughs to be viable.

Anyone can help reduce the problem of acid rain. You can write to your government official to promote clean coal technology, you can invest in companies that are developing new fossil fuel-free cars, such as fuel cell and electric cars. But most importantly, you can reduce your own consumption of electricity that is produced from coal, drive your gas-fueled car less often, and reduce your own acid rain footprint to make a real difference.

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