"Acid rain" is caused by emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. When these gasses react with water, oxygen and other chemicals, they form acidic compounds. Sunlight increases the rate of these reactions to form a solution of sulfuric acid and nitric acid. As this acidic water flows over and through the ground, it can cause lakes, streams and soil to become acidic as well, and damages trees at higher altitudes. Acid rain also speeds up the decay of building materials and paints.
Almost all of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and oil. When these fuels are burned, they emit nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. Coal is the worst culprit, responsible for most of the sulfur dioxide emissions in the U.S. and a large portion of nitrogen oxide emissions.
Driving a car is the single most polluting thing people can do. Motor vehicles emit three major pollutants: hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide. Hydrocarbons react with nitrogen oxides when sunlight is present to form ground-level ozone. This can cause eye irritation, coughing, shortness of breath, and permanent lung damage. Nitrogen oxides also contribute to the formation of acid rain and poor water quality. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and deadly gas. It reduces the flow of oxygen in the bloodstream and can cause brain damage. Motor vehicles also emit large amounts of carbon dioxide, which can trap the Earthýs heat and cause global warming.
How can you help control acid rain?
- Turn off lights, computers and appliances when not in use
- Insulate your home
- Carpool, use public transportation, or bike and walk more often
- Use energy-efficient appliances
- Maintain your car properly to ensure lower emissions