AcidRainPaper

AcidRainPaper - Moore 1 Emilie Moore ENST 430: Air Quality...

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Moore 1 Emilie Moore ENST 430: Air Quality Policy and Health Kevin Cannariato May 1, 2009 The Science and Significance of Acid Rain Abstract Acid deposition – more commonly known as acid rain - is a serious environmental issue caused by the emission of sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides. These primary air pollutants arise in large part from the burning of coal in the production of electricity and from fuel combustion in motor vehicles. In the atmosphere, they usually become nitric and sulfuric acid, both of which dissolve easily in water. The resulting acidic water particles can be carried far by winds and then return to Earth as wet or dry depositions. These cause extensive harm to a variety of areas including but not limited to forests, oceans, soil, cities, and human health. Currently, there is an extensive system of regulations governed by the EPA’s Acid Rain Program that are designed to reduce the amount of acid rain in our atmosphere. Overall, this program has been successful in its goal and has also made great progress in raising public awareness of ways that people can minimize their contribution to this severe issue. 1
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Moore 2 An Overview Although acid rain has only begun to receive the attention it requires in the last 3 decades, it has been around for over a century. It was first reported during the Industrial Revolution in England. Scottish chemist Robert Angus Smith was the first to coin the term “acid rain” in 1872 while he was doing research on the relationship between rainfall and atmospheric pollution. His first recorded observation was that “acid rain can lead to natural destruction” (U.S. EPA 2008). This pioneering idea proved to be completely accurate and provided the basis for tackling a significant modern environmental concern. Unfortunately, Smith’s 19 th century work was not taken into immediate concern. It wasn't until the 1970’s that scientists started studying the phenomenon. The 80’s were a time of extensive research and data collection, which led to monumental legislation being passed in the 90’s. Also, public awareness in the U.S increased dramatically after the New York Times circulated reports from the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire. These reports detailed a disgusting number of toxic environmental effects that were confirmed to result from acid rain. Logically, the problem has since become more widespread and has increased in direct proportion to population and industrial growth. At first, research only defined a clear link between acidity in precipitation, but further down the road it became apparent that snow, clouds, dew, and fog (sometimes with a pH as low as 1.8.) also possess the capability to be harmfully acidic (Godish 2004). Logically, this led to the question: what happens when there is an absence of 2
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Moore 3 precipitation in a particular area? Supplementary research led to the conclusion that acidic materials are also deposited on dry land in the form of particulate matter and
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AcidRainPaper - Moore 1 Emilie Moore ENST 430: Air Quality...

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