Saturday, January 14, 2012

Impacts of Acid Rain on Soils

Soil is the basis of wealth upon which all land-based life depends.
The damage that occurs to ecosystems from acidic deposition is dependent on the buffering ability of that ecosystem. This buffering ability is dependent on a number of factors, the two major ones being soil chemistry and the inherent ecosystem sensitivity to acidification. Indirect damage to ecosystems is largely caused by changes in the soil chemistry. Increasing soil acidity can affect micro-organisms which break down organic matter into nutrient form for plants to take up. Increasing soil acidity also allows aluminium (a common constituent of soil minerals) to come into solution. In its free organic form, aluminium is toxic to plant roots and can lock up phosphate, thereby reducing the concentrations of this important plant nutrient.

What Effect Does the Soil and Underlying Bedrock Have on Acid Rain?
Soils containing calcium and limestone are more able to neutralise sulphuric and nitric acid depositions than a thin layer of sand or gravel with a granite base.
If the soil is rich in limestone or if the underlying bedrock is either composed of limestone or marble, then the acid rain may be neutralised. This is because limestone and marble are more alkaline (basic) and produce a higher pH when dissolved in water. The higher pH of these materials dissolved in water offsets or buffers the acidity of the rainwater producing a more neutral pH.

Acid Sensitive Areas
In regions where the soil is not rich in limestone or if the bedrock is not composed of limestone or marble, then no neutralising effect takes place, and the acid rainwater accumulates in the bodies of water in the area. This applies to much of the north-eastern United States where the bedrock is typically composed of granite. Granite has no neutralising effect on acid rainwater. Therefore over time more and more acid precipitation accumulates in lakes and ponds.
The water bodies most susceptible to change due to acid precipitation are those whose catchments have shallow soil cover and poorly weathering bedrock, for example granite and quartzite. These soil types are characterised by the absence of carbonates that could neutralise acidity. The run-off water from such areas is less buffered than from areas such as limestone catchments, with an adequate level of carbonate. Such catchments and waters are termed acid-sensitive (poorly buffered), and can suffer serious ecological damage due to artificially acidified precipitation from air masses downwind of major emissions.

Notable high-risk areas in Canada and the United States are the Canadian Shield, the Adirondack Mountains, the Laurentians, the Appalachians, and the Green Mountains of Vermont. These areas are vulnerable because of their high elevations, small watersheds, and naturally acidic soils. Different types of bedrock contain variable amounts of alkaline chemicals. Regions with bedrock containing less alkali have a lower capacity for reducing acidity, and thus are more sensitive to acid deposition.

Effects of soil on vegetation
When acid rain falls, it can affect forests as well as lakes and rivers. To grow, trees need healthy soil to develop in. Acid rain is absorbed into the soil making it virtually impossible for these trees to survive. As a result of this, trees are more susceptible to viruses, fungi and insect pests.
Long-term changes in the chemistry of some sensitive soils may have already occurred as a result of acid rain. As acid rain moves through the soils, it can strip away vital plant nutrients through chemical reactions, thus posing a potential threat to future forest productivity.
Poisonous metals such as aluminium, cadmium and mercury, are leached from soils through reacting with acids. This happens because these metals are bound to the soil under normal conditions, but the added dissolving action of hydrogen ions causes rocks and small-bound soil particles to break down.

Plant life in areas where acid rain is common may grow more slowly or die as a result of soil acidification. In the Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the United States 50% of the red spruce have died in the past 25 years. There has also been noted a reduced amount of growth in existing trees as measured by the size of growth rings of the trees in these areas.

These effects occur because acid rain leaches many of the existing soil nutrients from the soil. The number of micro-organisms present in the soil also decreases as the soil becomes more acidic. This further depletes the amount of nutrients available to plant life because the micro-organisms play an important role in releasing nutrients from decaying organic material. In addition, the roots of plants trying to survive in acidic soil may be damaged directly by the acids present. Finally, if the plant life does not die from these effects, then it may be weakened enough so that it will be more susceptible to disease or other harsh environmental influences like cold winters or high winds.

Critical Loads
Environmental response to pollutants depends on many factors. Some regions cope with acidification better than others, having larger 'critical loads'. Critical load refers to the greatest assault that an ecological system can withstand before showing measurable degradation.
Scientists determine critical load by examining rock and soil type, land use and rainfall. If soil is fertile with a pH greater than 4.5, and rainfall is relatively low, the critical load will be high. The terrain can withstand moderately large additions of acidity without undue suffering. Conversely, in low pH soils, acidification mobilises toxic aluminium ions. If coniferous forests predominate, or if land is devoted to rough grazing, the result is a low critical load. Even minor acid deposition is undesirable.

There are very few long-term UK monitoring studies of soil acidification and none of soil biota. Chemical data are available from a few specific sites, from a small number of regional studies and from three national studies. From the limited information available, the National Expert Group on Transboundary Pollution has concluded that there is evidence that acid deposition has resulted in widespread acidification of acid sensitive soils in the UK. Further critical loads modelling research suggests that soil recovery from acidification may take many years or even decades.

What Are the Effects of Sulfuric Acid?

Most of the effects of sulfuric acid result from its strong acidity and its great affinity for water. Corrosion of metals by sulfuric acid is caused by its acidity. The effects of sulfuric acid on organic materials, including human tissue, are largely the result of its dehydrating properties. Materials such as wood, paper and cotton cloth are rapidly charred on contact with the acid.

The effects of sulfuric acid on metals are typical of a strong acid: it will react with those metals that are more reactive than hydrogen to form a metal sulfate salt and release hydrogen gas. It will react in this way with many common metals, including iron, zinc and aluminum. The reaction is more vigorous with the dilute acid than with the concentrated acid. This limits the materials that can be used to store the acid, although in concentrated form it can be stored in stainless steel tanks. The release of hydrogen gas poses a potential explosion risk in the event of a spillage or leak, if the acid comes into contact with metals.

Sulfuric acid is a very powerful dehydrating agent and a great deal of heat is released when the concentrated acid comes into contact with water. If water is added to an excess of the acid, the heat produced causes the water to boil immediately, which may result in the acid being sprayed over a wide area. For this reason, concentrated sulfuric acid should always be diluted by adding it — slowly — to water; the process should never be reversed.

The dehydrating effects of sulfuric acid explain its reactions with many common organic materials. It will remove hydrogen and oxygen from molecules that contain these elements in the 2:1 ratio found in the water molecule (H2O) — for example, carbohydrates — which include sugars, starch and cellulose. Sulfuric acid will react with carbohydrates to remove the hydrogen and oxygen, leaving behind carbon. A well known laboratory demonstration illustrates this; concentrated sulfuric acid is added to sucrose table sugar in a beaker and quickly converts it to a mass of charcoal, with a good deal of heat produced. This is the reason that sulfuric acid chars wood and paper — substances which consist mainly of carbohydrates.

The effects of sulfuric acid on skin are well documented, and are again due to the acid’s dehydrating properties rather than its acidity. Skin contact with the concentrated acid results in pain and swelling of tissue within a few seconds. If contact is sufficiently prolonged, deep burns can result and there may be some charring, resulting in a brown discoloration. Due to the swelling caused, sulfuric acid burns often result in permanent scarring.

When using sulfuric acid, suitable protective gloves and safety goggles should always be worn; a face shield and protective apron are also recommended. Small spillages onto unprotected skin can be dealt with by prompt washing with plenty of water. Larger spillages pose the risk of spraying of acid if water is applied immediately — it is better to quickly wipe away as much of the acid as possible before washing.

Sulfuric acid is not volatile at room temperature and so does not normally pose an inhalation hazard; however, in the event this acid or its industrial precursor, sulfur trioxide comes into contact with water, the violence of the reaction may produce a fine mist of sulfuric acid droplets. This can damage the eyes, respiratory tract and lungs if inhaled. Chronic exposure to sulfuric acid mist — for example, in a sulfuric acid plant — can have long-term health effects and may pose a cancer risk for workers.

Reactions of sulfuric acid with other materials may result in hazardous products. It will, for example, release toxic and corrosive vapors on contact with halides, such as chlorides, fluorides and bromides. Contact with chlorates and permanganates produces strongly oxidizing compounds that pose a fire or explosion risk.

What Is the Connection Between Acid Rain and Sulfuric Acid?

Acid rain is a type of rain that is more acidic than usual. Although the extra acid can come from volcanic gases and rotting vegetation, man-made sources can add acid to rain when fossil fuels are burnt and release certain gases into the air. Acid rain and sulfuric acid are closely intertwined, as sulfuric acid makes up the majority of the acidic component of rainwater.

Sulfuric acid is a molecule that has two hydrogen atoms, one sulfur atom and four oxygen atoms. This gives the acid the chemical formula of H2SO4. This substance is present in acid rain, although not exactly in that form. Powerful acids like sulfuric acid tend to mix in readily with water molecules, and breaks up into two parts when in the water.

These segments are a hydrogen atom, and the rest of the molecule, which now is HSO4. The hydrogen atom is positively charged when it falls off the initial acid molecule, so it is a positive ion. As most chemicals are balanced in charge, the other portion of the sulfuric acid molecule is negatively charged. pH, which is a measure of acidity, assigns acid values to substances based on how many hydrogen ions it contains. Acid rain and sulfuric acid therefore become more acidic the more hydrogen ions are present.

Before the sulfur compound even gets into the rain, it has to get into the atmosphere. This happens because gases that contains sulfur can float up in the air. Natural sources of these gases, which are hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide, are emissions from volcanoes, or gas produced by rotting plant matter, respectively.

Hydrogen sulfide has the chemical formula H2S, which means that it has two hydrogen atoms and one sulfur atom. This particular sulfur gas reacts with the oxygen already in the air, and turns into sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide, from H2S reactions, or from volcanic emissions, is a less complex molecule than when it becomes an acid, as it only contains two oxygen atoms and one sulfur atom.

Chemically, sulfur dioxide is represented by SO2. Most of this gas in the earth's atmosphere is from human activity. Primarily, this comes from the heat breakdown of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are a form of decayed plant matter, which has turned into coal, oil or gas over millions of years. Electrical power stations make the most, but industry, home heating and car emissions can also contribute.

This gas floats up in the air and mixes with the droplets of water in rain clouds. The SO2 turns to SO3, from interaction with atmospheric oxygen, before mixing with the water in the cloud. Water, which contains two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen, reacts with the SO3 to form H2SO4, which is sulfuric acid.

When acid rain and sulfuric acid fall to earth, the low pH can be damaging to organisms and inanimate objects. Watercourses that receive too much acid rain and sulfuric acid can become unhealthy places for fish and plants to live in. Construction materials like marble can become slowly eroded by the acid. Generally, even normal rainfall can have an acidic pH, which is about 5.6. Rain that has a pH of less than this, such as 3.0, is regarded as acid rain, and may be a sign of local pollution.

What Are Sulfur Emissions?

Sulfur emissions are gasses released into the atmosphere by power plants, factories, and motor vehicles. The primary component of these emissions is the chemical, sulfur dioxide, a colorless, nonflammable compound used in various industrial procedures, though it is also produced naturally by volcanoes. It is extremely irritating to humans, whether in gas or liquid form.

Sulfur dioxide is often used in wine making as an insecticide, a preservative, and as an anti-microbial disinfectant. It is also used as a dried fruit preservative, a refrigerant, a reduction or bleaching agent, a laboratory solvent, and in the production of sulfuric acid. Since sulfur dioxide is toxic in large quantities, it should always be handled by a professional, such as a doctor, scientist, or laboratory technician. If directed to use it within a classroom setting, a student should follow his or her professor's directions closely, when handling this potentially dangerous substance.

The combustion of petroleum and coal creates sulfur emissions, as they typically contain sulfur compounds. Since these compounds oxidize within the atmosphere, they can also react with water, creating acid rain. Both of these chemical reactions have been cause for health concerns, as their by-products are considered strong pollutants. They have been linked to heart attacks, asthma, and many other respiratory problems. Premature death has even been attributed to sulfur emissions.

These emissions have a strong environmental impact. The dark haze over many cities is often caused, in part, by sulfur emissions. The acid rain produced during chemical reactions between sulfur dioxide and water has been known to damage various ecosystems, including forests and farmlands. Some experts even warn that sulfur emissions are a greater danger than carbon emissions.

Some scientists claim that in a matter of weeks most of the sulfur in the atmosphere could essentially be eliminated by simply switching off all power plants. However, since the majority of emissions result from burning coal to produce electricity for human use, this solution is more difficult to implement than it seems. Nevertheless, scientists, in cooperation with governments worldwide, continue to work toward solving the problems that sulfur emissions create. Some proposed solutions include flue gas desulfurization, or chemically binding sulfur dioxide within power plants, using ferox as a fuel additive to lower emissions, and developing alternative energy sources, such as solar power.

What Are the Best Acid Rain Solutions?

Acid rain solutions focus on both prevention, and on helping to deal with the environmental ramifications once the acid rain does take place. So little can be done after the fact to improve the environment that the best acid rain solutions often focus on making sure it never happens in the first place. To do this, it is first necessary to identify the causes of acid rain together with processes that can be changed to aid in prevention.

Acid rain is caused by sulfur emissions, which are put into the air through the burning of coal, often used for energy. Other sources of sulfur in the atmosphere include volcanoes and decomposing vegetation. Despite the fact these natural sources do exist, it is generally agreed that anthropogenic causes are the main sources of acid rain. This may make acid rain solutions easier to identify simply because if humans have caused it, then logically they should have the ability to change it.

The best acid rain solutions focus on power plants and coal used in the production of energy. Technologies exist that can remove sulfur from the emissions coming out of coal plant. Low-sulfur varieties of coal can also be used to reduce sulfur emissions. Often, a combination of these acid rain solutions provides the best way to minimize the problem.

The installation of scrubbers can help prevent as much as 95 percent of sulfur emitted by a carbon -fired electric power plant. The scrubbers work by spraying water with lime through the gas emission produced from burning the coal. The lime interacts with the sulfur dioxide, creating a sludge that is then captured and stored. The problem with this method is that retrofitting existing power plants with the technology is usually very expensive. It is cheaper if the technology is installed as the power plant is being built, and the inclusion of the technology is now required in many countries when new power plants are erected.

Some forms of coal naturally have lower sulfur than other forms. In the United States, coal higher in sulfur often comes from the eastern portion of the country, whereas low-sulfur coal is found mainly in the West, in states such as Wyoming and Montana. This solution has the ability to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 50 percent or more, but is not without is disadvantages. The main disadvantage mentioned is the higher transportation costs of the coal to plants in the eastern portion of the country, and the loss of jobs resulting from the reduced demand for coal from the eastern United States.

A Great Demand For Water Pollution Solutions Necessary For Survival

The high demand for water pollution solutions increases as the threat to the survival of this generation as we know it is increasing, due to increasing toxic waste in water and the pollution levels in our environment.

Because of this, people are now becoming more aware of the importance of take care of our resources. Not only would the failure of this have a devastating effect on our future generations, it could also effect their ability to survive at all.

How to Stop Water Pollution
One of our most valuable resources is water, in the absence of this or the air, we couldnt survive.
Toxins such as industrial waste and raw sewage and run-off pollution continue to cause enormous damage all waterways.

The Clean Water Act of 1972, helped clean up by improving water that would have been otherwise unfit for human consumption.

unfortunately a great deal damage to the all rivers still result in loss of wildlife impaired functioning of ecosystems, and increasingly perilous human health threats.

Fresh water pollution in the case of river pollution, especially the run-off, which is generated by all of us and the solution to improving this, requires the help of all citizens.

It is not productive to always rely on our federal, state, provincial or local governments to effectively police all of our water resources.

They simply cannot free enough resources to watch over the amount of lakes, ponds, and rivers.

It is each of our civic duties to report activities of others who are polluting our water resources.

Daily air pollution is in our face and surrounds us as we breathe it in everyday.

The main cause of air pollution is by the burning of fossil fuels in our cars, industries and the emissions of toxic chemicals in manufacturing processes, these account for most of the pollution released into our air, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, ash, benzene, smoke, and soot, just to name a few.
Some of the more visible poisons accumulating in our atmosphere may present in the form of Smog or acid rain.
It is hopeful that with the right monitoring and regulation, that we can decrease the amount of pollutants in the air.

The 1980s the elimination of the use of leaded gasoline lowered the lead emissions in our air by 90%.

Filters are used to eliminate dark clouds, smog and smoke from the air in order to clean it.

It can not be stressed enough the importance of each of us becoming the eyes and ears for our government officials.

Uncontrolled and unsustainable development continues to threaten biodiversity.

Modern urbanization, pesticides, timber production and hazardous wastes being dumped and pumped into the land has crucially altered the natural landscape of our Earth.

With no practice of responsible urban planning and development or the designations of critical habitats or the preservation of endangered species and alleviation of agricultural and industrial actives that poison and erode the soil; the widespread habitat loss and species extinction will continue.

If you find someone or something polluting water, you should report it to the right people.
Bear in mind, its our future generations that count on, and their hope for health depend on our actions today, in order to sustain potable drinking water and clean fresh air to breathe.

Acid Is Falling From The Sky

The phenomenon of acid rain is caused by rain drops that contain pollutants like oxide from sulfur and nitrogen. This deadly combination generates acid in the droplets of rain. This gives acid rain its sour taste. The main causes of these pollutants are created by man: cars and industrial and power plants. The areas with the highest density of cars and plants have the highest chance of acid rain. The creation of acid rain also depends on the weather of that particular area. Strong winds will carry acid rains miles away thus polluting greater areas. When water is mixed with these gases and oxygen in the atmosphere, acid rain is generated. In warmer and sunnier climates, the reaction is intensified.

Canada has a high level of acid rain compared to many areas. All elements to create acid rains are united: car exhausts, the climate and pollution from industries. Canadian forests are starting to show the effects of acid rains. Both trees and animals show damages. Plants and animals have a hard time surviving in some areas.
For years, there has been talks and concerns about acid rain. The Clean Air Act of 1975 was written in this purpose. It was intended to regulate emissions of pollutants from cars being put into the air. It also was aimed to regulate the pollution levels put out be factories. One can seriously question though if the act is being respected and implemented.

It is an accepted fact that acid rain is caused by pollution. Pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide tend to stay in the atmosphere and react with the humidity in the air. When this polluted moisture falls to the ground, acid rain is created. Industrial pollution is the major cause of acid rain. The biggest causes of acid rain are cars and big industries. This acid rain created by man himself has proven very damaging to the environment every day. There is an immediate need to find better solutions to acid rain creation and reverse the damages done to nature.

There are a lot of interesting web sites and forums where a person can contribute and help stop manmade pollution. It is in our best interests to slow down and eventually stop acid rain.

Acid Rain: A Problem Which Concerns Us All

The United States and Canada suffer greatly from acid rain because of the inability of the soil to neutralize the acidity naturally, lacking alkalinity. The soil of Canada is in a great part made of rock which does not help to neutralize acid rain. The damages caused by acid rain continue in part to the lack of a natural ability to cleanse itself. One solution then is to diminish the creation and emission of acid rain.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has been commissioned to achieve sufficient environmental health conditions for everyone. They have the mission of reducing the emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere, two major of pollutants found in acid rain. This change will not come at a low price. The cost is so big that the government and businesses will need to work together to accomplish it. More accessible and rapid changes include cleaning out smoke stacks and exhaust pipes. Researches are being done to achieve better energy saving and finding alternative energy sources to reduce acid rain. Such alternate energy sources would be: Nuclear power, wind power, and solar energy. Everyone can start doing its little contribution by turning down their thermostat, car polling, making certain their car complies with emissions regulations, etc.

The only way the emission of acid rain will be achieved is from an international agreement. In 1984, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney made a plea to the United States Congress to help reduce the emissions from industries throughout the nation. The Unites States and Canada have been working together in a joint venture effort. In 1991, they both signed the Acid Rain Agreement. Both have agreed to accept responsibility for acid rain and continue to seek valuable solutions.

One of the ways to reduce acid rain is for the manufacturers to reduce the amount of pollutants by cleaning coal before burning it. Sulfur is greatly reduced if not eliminated by cleaning and crushing the coal. This process is expensive and takes long. Companies will need to play their part if they want to diminish acid rain. It is the role of our governments to make certain the rules and laws to reduce acid rain are respected.

In areas where acid rain is prevalent, respiratory problems are more common. People present with more asthma, dry cough, headaches, and irritations in the eyes, nose, and throat. As a result of great health concerns, the United States and Canada signed the Air Quality Agreement in 1991. The purpose of the agreement is to reduce the effects of acid rain. It will require an every day effort to change our polluting habits and come to a solution to acid rain.

Acid Rain Pollution

Acid rain has been a preoccupation since 1966 in the scientific community. Scientists finally could describe and explain the phenomenon. Acid rain was not a random problem anymore. More surprising was evidence that man himself was causing this menace to nature. The focus was now on trying to stop it. Acid rain is a worldwide problem. Countries with higher pollution emission are more affected. We only recently realized the great danger of acid rain. Its effects on nature are more and more obvious.

Acid rain has generated a very slow response in the beginning. Nowadays, as people realize the devastating effects of acid rain on animals and plants, their reaction is one of concern. By showing evidence of animals that died from a direct result of acid rain, scientists started getting some attention. The first reaction from the general public was to blame the big manufacturers for acid rain. We now know that a lot of our daily gestures are contributing factors to acid rain.

Manufacturers, after being pressured by governments in place, started complying to rules and regulations designed to reduce acid rain. This way, they focused on reducing their sulfur emissions, a major cause of acid rain. They also accepted to install filters to reduce the liberation of polluting gases in the atmosphere. These gases are forced to penetrate a tube full of lime and water. The interaction of the sulfur gas with the lime results in calcium sulfate being produced. Industries are then faced with a second problem: how do they get rid of the calcium sulfate that is created? This solution is only one being studied and has proven to be time consuming and rather expensive.

We are experiencing a rapid increase in the level of acid rain and major changes need to be undertaken right away. The rise in the level of acid rain in some areas can be as much as 70% above normal levels. These higher levels of acid rain have proven to be very harmful to the environment. Man, is too, affected by the increased level of acid rain and the rate of respiratory problems is concerning in areas where acid rain is predominant. In nature, forests, trees, lakes, animals, and plants also suffer greatly from the ravage of acid rain.

Winds have the power to carry sulfur dioxide miles away thus spreading the areas where acid rain causes problems. Since man cannot control wind, the only viable solution is to lower the emission of such pollutants as sulfur dioxide.

Acid rain is a serious threat to man and his environment and only a constant and serious effort will prove successful. Many rules and regulations have been passed in that direction. It is everyone's responsibility to make sure they are respected.

Acid Rain - Its Causes And Effects

As we all know, acid rain have harmful effects on vegetation, animals and humans. Acid rain is caused by too much pollution that contaminates the rain water. Before, rain is believed to be pure and said to contain minerals that are good for the hair and skin, but now, rain water can already cause diseases. This article will give you information on what is acid rain and what are its effects in the environment.

Too much nitrogen oxide, carbon, and ammonium can mix with water droplets in the atmosphere causing the water's pH level to go below 7 making it acidic. This is the cause of acid rain. Acidic water can be harmful to all living things on the ground.

One of the things that can suffer the harsh effect of acid rain is the vegetation. Microscopic organisms that are important for biochemical processes that aids in the food production of the plants can die due to acid rain, thus, affecting the food making process of the plants and can cause them to die. Acid rain can also affect the reproduction and growth of plants. It can also take off the waxy covering of plants causing them to be more vulnerable to diseases.

Animals can also fall victims of acid rain. It can make harmful elements like mercury to leak to the ground and be washed down the rivers, lakes and seas. This can affect the marine life. Not only that fishes and other aquatic animals will die but humans can also get affected by eating fish with high harmful element deposits in its stomach.

Human beings can also be affected with acid rain. Contact with the acidic water of the rain can cause skin irritation, blisters and can even burn the skin if there is so much acid in the water. Acid rain can even cause skin cancer according to some doctors. Humans are also affected by acid rain when they were able to consume plants and animals containing harmful chemicals.

Now that you are already aware of thee already aware of the causes of acid rain and the harmful effects it can bring, it is best to help prevent acid rain from happening by doing our role in protecting our mother nature.