Cause of Acid Deposition Ι Effects of Acid Deposition on Human Health
Causes of acid deposition:
Acid deposition can occur via natural sources like 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 responsible for acid deposition are normally a byproduct of electric power generation and the burning of coal.
As such, it began entering the atmosphere in large amounts during the Industrial Revolution and was first discovered by a Scottish chemist, Robert Angus Smith, in 1852. In that year, he discovered the relationship between acid rain and atmospheric pollution in Manchester, England.
Effects of acid deposition:
- Plant Life: Acid rain seeps into the earth and poisons plants and trees by dissolving toxic substances in the soil, such as aluminium, which gets absorbed by the roots. This rain also dissolves the beneficial minerals and nutrients in the soil which are then washed away, before the plants and trees have a chance of using them in order to grow.
- Aquatic Life: Acid rain also affects aquatic organisms adversely. A high amount of sulfuric acid in the seawater interferes with the ability of fish to take in nutrients, salt, and oxygen. As far as freshwater fish is concerned, in order for them to stay alive, they need to balance the number of minerals and salts in their tissues.
- Man-made Objects: Other than causing harm to ecosystems, acid rain also damages man-made structures and materials. For example, acid rain dissolves sandstone, limestone, and marble. It also corrodes ceramic, textiles, paints, and metals. Rubber and leather deteriorate if exposed to acid rain. Stone monuments and carvings lose their shine when exposed to this contaminated rain.
- Humans: Most of all, acid rain affects human health adversely. It can harm us through atmospheric and soil pollution. Acid rain leads to the formation of toxic compounds by reacting with naturally occurring chemical compounds. Once these toxic compounds are formed, they can seep into the drinking water, and also enter the food chain. This contaminated food can damage the nerves in children, or result in severe brain damage, or even death.