Acid rain facts for kids
Acid rains can be harmful to plants, animals, and humans.
Although some natural gases, such as carbon dioxide, and gases from volcanoes can cause acid rain, it is now believed that mankind causes most acid rain. When people began building and using factories and power stations, they burned coal or oil. These compounds have sulfur in them that releases into the air, mixes with other elements, and produces acid rain.
Since the 1970s, governments have tried to clean smoke from factories and power stations to keep too much sulfur from rising into the atmosphere. This has had good results, but it is expensive.
In 2001, Great Britain still produced about five million tonnes (metric tons) of these gases every year, while China produced 18 million tonnes. The United States produced more than 20 million tonnes, but in 2010 that number fell to 8.1 million.
Effects on lake ecology
The pH level in lakes needs to be correct for fish to be able to survive, and acid rain can affect a lake's pH level. If there is too much acid in the water several things can happen:
- The enzymes that help fish larvae to hatch will not be produced.
- Aluminum travels more easily through water, causing fish to make more mucus around their gills. This makes it harder for fish to breathe.
- Phytoplankton will not grow well and the animals that feed on it would suffer.
Effects on soil biology
Acid rain can damage soil by killing microbes that are needed in the soil. The hydrogen ions of acid rain also allow toxins to move in the soil and take away nutrients that the soil needs. Forests usually are the home to fungi, but acid rain changes the soil, making it more filled with bacteria. Many trees in the forest depend on the fungi for water and minerals, while the fungi take carbohydrates from the trees. This symbiotic relationship, called mycorriza, can be destroyed by acids.
Other adverse effects
Acid rain affects both living and non-living things. The leaves and roots of trees are damaged, making them less able to make food (photosynthesis) and absorb nutrients. Toxic ions released due to acid rain are dangerous to humans. It is believed that copper (mobilized by acids) has caused outbreaks of diarrhea in young children. Statues and other ancient structures have also been harmed by acid rain.
In the U.S., the method for keeping sulfur from escaping into the air from the smokestacks of factories is called Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD). One popular example is a wet scrubber, which pulls the gases from the stack into a tower and cleans them using lime or limestone. This changes the form of the chemical into a calcium sulfate that can be taken out of the scrubber. Sometimes the sulfates are sold to chemical companies. Other times, they are put in a landfill.
Some people do not want power generation to be controlled because they feel that pollution is a natural consequence of factories and power stations. They believe that if the pollution is not handled properly, it could be dangerous. Others install pollution controls for the benefits that they will receive from them.
Interesting facts about acid rain
- Acid rain is a result of gases mixing with water high in the atmosphere.
- Sulfur dioxide is released into the air by machines, houses, and vehicles and is the main chemical that creates acid rain.
- Acid rain makes it more difficult for aquatic animals to survive.
- Acid rain can damage the soil and the plants that live in it.
- There are ways to prevent so much sulfur dioxide from escaping into the air. Many companies install pollution-controlling machinery in their factories.
Images for kids
In Spanish: Lluvia ácida para niños
Acid rain Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.