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Raining Acid

             ACID RAIN "Statues dissolving and guns rusting, children choking and soil becoming poisoned, trees withering, rocks blackening. And the trout float belly-up" (Pawlick 184). These are some of the disastrous effects caused by acid rain. In North America this cancer eats into the very heart of industrialized eastern Canada and down the northeastern coast of the United States, from Vermont to North Carolina. Other areas of the United States are at risk too, but the Northeast is the worst hit region. Acid rain is rain with a high acidic content. But it encompasses more than just rain. It can be "any precipitation such as rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog and dew, or dry deposition, that contains sulfuric or nitric acids formed in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels." (Tyson 184) The acidity of a substance is determined by using a pH scale. The scale runs from zero (very acid) to fourteen (alkaline). Neutral water such as distilled water has a pH of 7. "Natural" rain water has a pH of 5.6 due to chemicals in the air and is considered slightly acidic. Therefore, a pH of less than 5.6 is used to identify acid rain. The scale works on a logarithmic progression where a change by 1 unit represents a tenfold increase or decrease. For example, a substance with a pH of 1 is ten times more acidic than one with a pH of 2 and 100 times more acidic than one with a pH of 3. Acid rain has been called the stepchild of pollution (Howard and Perley 3). Most air pollution is produced by burning fossil fuels like coal and to a lesser degree oil and natural gas. When these fuels are burned from the tall smokestacks of power plants, metal smelters, industrial boilers and cars, planes and trains, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide escape into the air. These two substances then mix with water vapor in the air and become sulfuric acid and nitric acid. These acids float up into the clouds. Clouds have been called the "vacuum cleaners of the atmosphere" because of the huge loads of acidity they carry (Video, Nova-Acid Rain: New Bad News).

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