Saying sulphates do not cause acid rain is the same as saying that smoking does not cause lung cancer. When our parents and grandparents were children, they never heard of ozone depletion, smog, greenhouse gases or acid rain. Acid rain is the result of a chemical reaction, which begins when compounds like sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are released into the air. These substances are able to rise very high into the atmosphere, which is where they mix and react with oxygen, water and other chemicals to form multiple acid pollutants known as acid rain.
Human activities are the main culprit behind acid rain. Since the last few decades, human activities have resulted in the release of many chemicals into the air, which is why the composition of gases in the atmosphere has changed. Majority of the sulphur dioxide is released by power plants, whereas most of the nitrogen oxides are released after the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, in order to produce electricity. Moreover, the exhaustion from transport vehicles like cars, trucks and buses release nitrogen oxides, which is how sulphur dioxide is released into the air. Hence, acid rain is caused by these pollutants.
Nature is highly dependent on balance, and even though acid rain is naturally acidic, human activities have made its prevalence even worse. The chemicals released from normal precipitation neutralise the acidic content, but when the precipitation becomes too acidic, neutralisation of such materials is impossible.
The effects of acid rain are most clearly seen in aquatic environments considering crops, trees, rivers, lakes and animals are severely damaged. Since everything in an ecosystem is connected, damage to one species of plants and animals, the soil or water, damages everything else. Looking at the human damage, walking in acid rain or even swimming in a lake that has been affected by acid rain, is more dangerous than taking a stroll in normal rain or swimming in a non-acidic lake. Other harmful effects include a high risk of developing heart disease, asthma for people with breathing difficulties and poor lung function.
By: Maria Mushtaq