Acid Rain

Forest Damaged by Acid Rain Forests, lakes, ponds, and other terrestrial and aquatic environments throughout the world are being severely damaged by the effects of acid rain. Acid rain is caused by the combination of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen compounds with water in the atmosphere. In addition to chemically burning the leaves of plants, acid rain poisons lake water, killing most, if not all, the aquatic inhabitants.

Acid Rain, form of air pollution in which airborne acids produced by electric utility plants and other sources fall to Earth in distant regions. The corrosive nature of acid rain causes widespread damage to the environment. The problem begins with the production of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, natural gas, and oil, and from certain kinds of manufacturing. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides react with water and other chemicals in the air to form sulfuric acid, nitric acid, and other pollutants. These acid pollutants reach high into the atmosphere, travel with the wind for hundreds of miles, and eventually return to the ground by way of rain, snow, or fog, and as invisible “dry” forms.

Damage from acid rain has been widespread in eastern North America and throughout Europe, and in Japan, China, and Southeast Asia. Acid rain leaches nutrients from soils, slows the growth of trees, and makes lakes uninhabitable for fish and other wildlife. In cities, acid pollutants corrode almost everything they touch, accelerating natural wear and tear on structures such as buildings and statues. Acids combine with other chemicals to form urban smog, which attacks the lungs, causing illness and premature deaths.


Alm, Leslie R. Crossing Borders, Crossing Boundaries: The Role of Scientists in the U.S. Acid Rain Debate. Greenwood, 2000.
The science that went into federal policy development and acid rain legislation.

Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. Environmental Awareness: Acid Rain. Ed. Jody James and Janet Wolanin. Bancroft Sage, 1991.
Overview of acid rain, its effects, and possible solutions for alleviating its damage. For general readers.

Somerville, Richard C. The Forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change. University of California Press, 1996, reprint 1998.
Overview of the environmental and human forces influencing global atmospheric change.

Woodburn, Judith. The Acid Rain Hazard. Gareth Stevens, 1993. A general discussion of the causes of acid rain and the ways it damages the environment; suggests solutions for preventing acid rain and reversing its effects.

Cited "Acid Rain," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2004 © 1997-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.