Acid Rain

Description: An online article entitled What is Acid Rain provides details on what acid rain is, the effects of acid rain, the causes of acid rain, and the levels of Hydrogen, Nitrate, and Sulfate ion concentrates throughout the United States, including across Illinois.

According to the article, acid rain (pH less than 5.0) is rain that is more acidic than normal (pH greater than or equal to 5.0). Rising to prominence in the 1960s when Scandinavian lakes became too acidic resulting in fish deaths, acid rain was traced to pollutant emissions from western and central Europe. Today, acid rain is a ubiquitous dilemma that is a serious issue in portions of North America and eastern Canada.

Acid rain is a complicated problem, but scientists have discovered that air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels is the major cause of acid rain. Power plants and factories burn coal and oil to produce the electricity we need to heat and light our homes and to run our electric appliances. We also burn natural gas, coal, and oil to heat our homes. Cars, trucks, and airplanes use gasoline, another fossil fuel.

The smoke and fumes from burning fossil fuels undergo complex chemical reactions and become distributed in the environment. The main chemicals in air pollution that create acid rain are sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Acid rain usually forms high in the clouds where sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides react with water, oxygen, and oxidants. This forms a mild solution of sulfuric acid and nitric acid. Sunlight increases the rate of most of these reactions. Rainwater, snow, fog, and other forms of precipitation containing those mild solutions of sulfuric and nitric acids can all result from this chemical reaction.

In 1988, a station west of Champaign recorded the nations‘ sixth highest level of acid rain.

Source: About Website
Illinois Power Company
Date Last Revisited: 1/24/07