Q:

How does acid rain occur?

A:

Quick Answer

Acid rain occurs when compounds such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are released into the air, causing a chemical reaction. These compounds mix and react with water, oxygen and other chemicals to form acidic pollutants. The compounds mix easily with water, and the wind can carry them great distances.

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Full Answer

Traveling sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides become part of rain, snow, sleet or fog. Although rain is always slightly acidic because it mixes with naturally-occurring oxides in the air, acid rain can have a pH value of four, and some acid rain has been recorded with a pH of two. Acid rain contributes to the damage of high-elevation trees, such as red spruce, and it causes acidification of lakes and streams. Acid rain contributes to degradation of buildings, and it poses harm to public health when the sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter fall to the earth.

Acid rain is a result of air pollution, such as the smoke produced by fires or the fumes that emanate from car exhaust. Power stations and factories that burn fuel produce polluting gases that contribute to the formation of acid rain. Approximately two-thirds of sulfur dioxide and one-quarter of nitrogen oxides in the United States come from electric power generation where fossil fuels, such as coal, are burned.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Where does acid rain occur?

    A:

    In the United States, acid rain is most prevalent in the Northeast. Southeast Canada and much of Europe, including Norway and Sweden, experience acid rain. Acid rain is a major problem in developing countries.

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  • Q:

    What causes rain water to become acidic?

    A:

    Rain becomes acidic when it reacts with chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that have been released into the atmosphere. The major reason for the increase in the occurrence of acid rain is human activity, although environmental reactions also sometimes cause acid rain.

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  • Q:

    What does acid rain do?

    A:

    Acid rain threatens and damages the ecosystem. It can stunt the growth of trees, change the acidity of the water and causes toxic substances to be released from the soil, harming many aquatic animals and living things. It also weakens the materials and hastens the natural erosion of concrete structures.

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  • Q:

    What effect does acid rain have on plants and animals?

    A:

    Acid rain can cause immediate damage to the cells of plants and animals as well as prolonged effects of residual damage in the future. Most directly, living cells require a balanced pH level in order to grow and divide properly. Acid rain can reduce the pH level of a cell, interrupting the typical functioning of mitosis.

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