Acid Rain In China

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Acid Rain In China

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Rain is naturally a little acidic, meaning its pH is below a neutral pH of 7. The pH scale measures how acidic or basic a substance is. It ranges from 0 very acidic , to 14 very basic. Normal rain generally ranges from about 6. Acid rain, however, measures below 5. Acid rain has been measured at the bottoms of clouds at pH 2. Water dissolves more substances than any other known material. Pure water only stays pure until it touches something else. When water vapor condenses around a particulate floating in the air, the water may dissolve or react with the particulate.

When the particulate is dust or pollen, the rain carries the particle to the ground. When the particulate carries or contains chemicals, a reaction can occur. As water vapor bounces around in the atmosphere, some of the water molecules react with carbon dioxide molecules to form carbonic acid, a weak acid. This lowers the pH of the rain from 7 to about 5, depending on the concentration of carbonic acid. Natural buffers in the soil usually mediate this mildly acidic rain. Naturally occurring acid rain can also be caused by volcanic eruptions, rotting vegetation and forest fires.

These events release sulfur and nitrogen compounds into the air while also providing particulates smoke, ash and dust for water vapor to clump around. Water vapor reacts with sulfur compounds like hydrogen sulfide to form sulfuric acid and with nitrogen compounds to form nitric acid. These acids have much lower pH levels than carbonic acid. Burning fossil fuels in automobiles, trucks, factories and power stations release sulfur and nitrogen compounds into the atmosphere, just like volcanoes and forest fires. Unlike volcanic eruptions and forest fires, however, these sources of air pollution continue over long periods of time.

These plumes of air pollution can travel long distances. The effects of air pollution on materials and structures ranges from surface dirt and stains to corrosion of the materials. Burning coal to create electricity pollutes the air. Industries and homes generate garbage and sewage that can pollute the land and water. Pesticide s—chemical poison s used to kill weeds and insects— seep into waterway s and harm wildlife. When these resource s are polluted, all forms of life are threatened. Pollution is a global problem. Although urban area s are usually more polluted than the countryside, pollution can spread to remote places where no people live. For example, pesticides and other chemicals have been found in the Antarctic ice sheet.

In the middle of the northern Pacific Ocean, a huge collection of microscopic plastic particles forms what is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Air and water current s carry pollution. Ocean currents and migrating fish carry marine pollutants far and wide. Wind s can pick up radioactive material accidentally released from a nuclear reactor and scatter it around the world. Smoke from a factory in one country drifts into another country. Now, coal-burning power plant s in Texas and the neighboring state of Chihuahua, Mexico have spewed so much pollution into the air that visitors to Big Bend can sometimes see only 50 kilometers 30 miles.

The three major types of pollution are air pollution , water pollution , and land pollution. Air Pollution Sometimes, air pollution is visible. A person can see dark smoke pour from the exhaust pipes of large trucks or factories, for example. More often, however, air pollution is invisible. Polluted air can be dangerous, even if the pollutants are invisible. It can also increase the risk of lung cancer. Sometimes, air pollution kills quickly. In , an accident at a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, released a deadly gas into the air. At least 8, people died within days. Hundreds of thousands more were permanently injured. Natural disaster s can also cause air pollution to increase quickly. When volcano es erupt , they eject volcanic ash and gases into the atmosphere.

Volcanic ash can discolor the sky for months. After the eruption of the Indonesian volcano of Krakatoa in , ash darkened the sky around the world. The dimmer sky caused fewer crop s to be harvested as far away as Europe and North America. Volcanic gas es, such as sulfur dioxide , can kill nearby residents and make the soil infertile for years. Mount Vesuvius, a volcano in Italy, famously erupted in 79, killing hundreds of residents of the nearby towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Most victims of Vesuvius were not killed by lava or landslide s caused by the eruption.

They were choked, or asphyxiate d, by deadly volcanic gases. In , a toxic cloud developed over Lake Nyos, Cameroon. Lake Nyos sits in the crater of a volcano. Though the volcano did not erupt, it did eject volcanic gases into the lake. The heated gases passed through the water of the lake and collected as a cloud that descend ed the slopes of the volcano and into nearby valleys. As the toxic cloud moved across the landscape, it killed birds and other organisms in their natural habitat. This air pollution also killed thousands of cattle and as many as 1, people. Most air pollution is not natural, however.

It comes from burning fossil fuel s—coal, oil , and natural gas. When gasoline is burned to power cars and trucks, it produces carbon monoxide , a colorless, odorless gas. The gas is harmful in high concentration s, or amounts. City traffic produces highly concentrated carbon monoxide. Cars and factories produce other common pollutants, including nitrogen oxide , sulfur dioxide, and hydrocarbon s. These chemicals react with sunlight to produce smog , a thick fog or haze of air pollution. The smog is so thick in Linfen, China, that people can seldom see the sun.

Smog can be brown or grayish blue, depending on which pollutants are in it. Smog makes breathing difficult, especially for children and older adults. Some cities that suffer from extreme smog issue air pollution warnings. The government of Hong Kong, for example, will warn people not to go outside or engage in strenuous physical activity such as running or swimming when smog is very thick. When air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide mix with moisture, they change into acid s.

They then fall back to earth as acid rain. Wind often carries acid rain far from the pollution source. Pollutants produced by factories and power plants in Spain can fall as acid rain in Norway. Acid rain can kill all the trees in a forest. It can also devastate lake s, stream s, and other waterways. Acid rain also wears away marble and other kinds of stone. It has erased the words on gravestone s and damaged many historic buildings and monument s. The Taj Mahal , in Agra, India, was once gleaming white. Years of exposure to acid rain has left it pale. Governments have tried to prevent acid rain by limiting the amount of pollutants released into the air.

In Europe and North America, they have had some success, but acid rain remains a major problem in the developing world , especially Asia. Greenhouse gas es are another source of air pollution. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane occur naturally in the atmosphere. In fact, they are necessary for life on Earth. They absorb sunlight reflected from Earth, preventing it from escaping into space. By trapping heat in the atmosphere, they keep Earth warm enough for people to live.

This is called the greenhouse effect. But human activities such as burning fossil fuels and destroying forests have increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This has increased the greenhouse effect, and average temperature s across the globe are rising. The decade that began in the year was the warmest on record. This increase in worldwide average temperatures, caused in part by human activity, is called global warming. Global warming is causing ice sheets and glacier s to melt.

The melting ice is causing sea level s to rise at a rate of 2 millimeters 0. The rising seas will eventually flood low-lying coast al regions. Entire nation s, such as the island s of Maldives, are threatened by this climate change. Global warming also contributes to the phenomenon of ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is the process of ocean waters absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Fewer organisms can survive in warmer, less salty waters. The ocean food web is threatened as plants and animals such as coral fail to adapt to more acidic oceans.

Scientists have predicted that global warming will cause an increase in severe storm s. It will also cause more drought s in some region s and more flooding in others. The change in average temperatures is already shrinking some habitats, the regions where plants and animals naturally live. Polar bears hunt seals from sea ice in the Arctic. The melting ice is forcing polar bears to travel farther to find food, and their numbers are shrinking. People and governments can respond quickly and effectively to reduce air pollution.

Chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons CFCs are a dangerous form of air pollution that governments worked to reduce in the s and s. CFCs are found in gases that cool refrigerators, in foam products, and in aerosol can s. When people are exposed to more ultraviolet radiation, they are more likely to develop skin cancer, eye diseases, and other illnesses. In the s, scientists noticed that the ozone layer over Antarctica was thinning. But Australia, the home of more than 22 million people, lies at the edge of the hole.

In the s, the Australian government began an effort to warn people of the dangers of too much sun. Water Pollution Some polluted water looks muddy, smells bad, and has garbage floating in it. Polluted water is unsafe for drinking and swimming. Some people who drink polluted water are exposed to hazardous chemicals that may make them sick years later.

Others consume bacteria and other tiny aquatic organisms that cause disease. The United Nations estimates that 4, children die every day from drinking dirty water. Sometimes, polluted water harms people indirectly. They get sick because the fish that live in polluted water are unsafe to eat. They have too many pollutants in their flesh. There are some natural sources of water pollution.

Oil and natural gas, for example, can leak into oceans and lakes from natural underground sources. These sites are called petroleum seep s. The Coal Oil Point Seep releases so much oil that tar ball s wash up on nearby beaches. Tar balls are small, sticky pieces of pollution that eventually decompose in the ocean. Human activity also contributes to water pollution. Chemicals and oils from factories are sometimes dumped or seep into waterways. These chemicals are called runoff. Chemicals in runoff can create a toxic environment for aquatic life. Runoff can also help create a fertile environment for cyanobacteria , also called blue-green algae.

Cyanobacteria reproduce rapidly, creating a harmful algal bloom HAB. Harmful algal blooms prevent organisms such as plants and fish from living in the ocean. Mining and drilling can also contribute to water pollution. Acid mine drainage AMD is a major contributor to pollution of rivers and streams near coal mines. Acid helps miners remove coal from the surrounding rocks. The acid is washed into streams and rivers, where it reacts with rock s and sand. It releases chemical sulfur from the rocks and sand, creating a river rich in sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is toxic to plants, fish, and other aquatic organisms. Sulfuric acid is also toxic to people, making rivers polluted by AMD dangerous sources of water for drinking and hygiene.

Today, acid deposition is present in the northeastern United States, southeastern Canada, and much of Europe, including portions of Sweden, Norway, and Germany. In addition, parts of South Asia particularly China, Sri Lanka, and southern India and South Africa are all in danger of being affected by acid deposition in the future. Acid deposition can be caused by natural sources such as volcanoes , but it is mainly caused by the release of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide during fossil fuel combustion. When these gases are discharged into the atmosphere, they react with the water, oxygen, and other gases already present there to form sulfuric acid, ammonium nitrate, and nitric acid.

These acids then disperse over large areas because of wind patterns and fall back to the ground as acid rain or other forms of precipitation. The gases most responsible for acid deposition are a byproduct of electric power generation and the burning of coal. As such, man-made acid deposition began becoming a significant issue during the Industrial Revolution and was first discovered by a Scottish chemist Robert Angus Smith in In that year, he discovered the relationship between acid rain and atmospheric pollution in Manchester, England. Although it was discovered in the s, acid deposition did not gain significant public attention until the s, and the term "acid rain" was coined in Public attention further increased in the s when the "New York Times" published reports about problems occurring in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire.

After studying the Hubbard Brook Forest and other areas, researchers found several important effects of acid deposition on both natural and man-made environments. Aquatic settings are the most clearly affected by acid deposition, however, because acidic precipitation falls directly into them. Both dry and wet deposition also runs off from forests, fields, and roads and flows into lakes, rivers, and streams. As this acidic liquid flows into larger bodies of water, it is diluted. Howvever, over time, acids can accrue and lower the overall pH of the body of water. Acid deposition also causes clay soils to release aluminum and magnesium , further lowering the pH in some areas.

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