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Acid Rain

Acid Rain Pollution comes in various forms. Whether its toxic waste, CFCs, or sewage, they are all hazardous, to the earth. These can deplete the earth and its inhabitants of resources, causing a harmful change. A product of pollution is acid rain. We shall see that acidification is harmful to all forms of life. Acid rain is any form of precipitation that is polluted by sulphur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen oxides (NOX).

This acid precipitation can be in the form of rain, snow, sleet, fog, or cloud vapors. The acidity of substances dissolved in water are measured by their pH levels. Normal precipitation pH levels fall between 5.0-5.6.2 When levels fall below these numbers, then the precipitation is said to be acidic. There are two ways in which acid deposition can form. The first way occurs when nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide land on the Earths surface, and interact with frost or dew. The second way takes place due to the oxidation of nitrogen oxides or sulphur dioxide gases that are released into the air.3 Since it may take up to several days for the gases to be altered into their acid counter-parts, the pollutants can travel miles away from their original source. Emissions of (SO2) are responsible for the majority of the acid deposition, which falls to Earth.

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When we burn coal, we are releasing (SO2), into the air, since coal is slight made up of sulphur. Volcanic eruptions can add a great deal of sulphur into the atmosphere. Everyday organic decay adds sulphur into the air as well. (SO2) can hit the Earths surface in dry forms or wet forms, by undergoing the following reactions: (SO2 + H20 *** H2SO3) (SO2 + O2 *** SO3 + H2SO4)2 Human activity is the major cause for nitrogen oxides presence in our atmosphere, such as forest fires and the combustion of oil, coal, and gas. The other causes are due to nature.

Lightning, volcanic action, and bacteria in soil are just to name a few. The following chemical reactions show how acids of nitrogen form: (NO2 + O2 *** NO2) (2NO2 + H2O *** HNO2 + HNO3) (NO2 + OH *** HNO3)2 Acid rain can affect plant life directly when the surface of leaves and needles come into contact with acid vapor or fog. This causes a reduction in the trees ability to withstand the cold. A direct result would be the tree’s incapability of reproduction. It can also harm plant life indirectly, by the acidification of soils.

Acid rain can cause soil to loose nutrients such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium. In very acid conditions, aluminum becomes soluble, and is released from the soil. At high enough concentrations, aluminum can cause damage to roots. Acid rain causes a nutrient imbalance, in soil. Although it is true that nitrogen promotes forest growth, plant life also needs other nutrients.

Precipitation polluted by nitrogen can contain heavy metals, such as mercury, cadmium, and lead. This process is known as nitrogen saturation.1 These too, can cause damage to tree roots. Besides trees, plants are also affected by acid rain. Reductions in pH levels can cause seed germination to be inhibited. Plant structures become weak, due to the loss of nutrients to the plants tissues.4 Flowering of certain plants may not occur due to lack of essential minerals. Marine life is also greatly affect by acid rain. Acid water can leach high levels of aluminum from the bedrock.

Rocks that contain great amounts of calcium or magnesium can act as a neutralizer. Those rocks and soils that lack some sort of buffers can cause grave damage to marine fish and plants. There are two ways in which aluminum can harm aquatic environments. It can cause a fish to suffocate, because aluminum precipitates in gills, thus interfering in the transport of oxygen. Secondly, fish produce mucus to combat the aluminum, in their gills. The mucus then builds up a clogs the fishs gills.5 In middle latitudes many bodies of water experience what is called “acid shock.”4 Over the winter acid deposits can build up on snow. As the snow melts, the acids are released.

Most fish can survive shock, but their eggs cannot adapt to acidification. When there is a change in the chemistry of water, the ecology of the water begins to change. The number and variety of species are altered. At a pH level of 6.0 certain types of zooplankton and green algae begin to disappear. The loss of green plants allows more UV light to penetrate to further depths, so certain types of snails and phyto-plankton disappear.

Frogs, toads, and salamanders are also affected by acid rain.5 The low pH stunts their growth. Not only does acid rain kill species, but also it alters the food supply for higher fauna. If there is a decrease in the number of bottom dwelling organisms (benthos), there can be a decline in the number of insects, such as mosquitoes and flies. This puts a stress on carnivorous fish. Birds that eat these fish, which may contain high levels of aluminum, will then produce eggs with soft-shells. Their young will most likely not survive.

Humans are not immune to the effects of acid rain. People that are exposed to high concentrations of acidic pollution are known to have respiratory problems. SO2 can react with water vapor to form fine particles of sulphate. If inhaled, these particles can cause severe damage to lung tissue. The affect can be a simple cough or chest cold, or as dangerous as asthma or chronic bronchitis.

Humans can consume aluminum by drinking water or eating crops that have contaminated by acid precipitation. If ingested in large quantities, it can have toxic effects on human health. Many doctors believe that aluminum consumption can lead to Alzheimers disease.1 We see the effects of acidification everyday. All forms of acid precipitation may damage automotive coatings. The damaged is mostly observed on newly painted vehicles.

It is the evaporation of acidic moisture that causes the damage. Many headstones and buildings and statues, such as the Statue of Liberty, are affected in the same way. Acid deposition can cause fading of these structures. Churches and cathedrals also suffer.3 The United States is trying to take care of this problem through environmental legislation. Title IV of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, calls for a 10 million ton reduction in the number of emissions of sulfur dioxide.3 One way of reducing emissions is lowering the production of sulphate aerosol cans. Since this act was passed, hospitals have witnessed a significantly lower number of cases of respiratory problems.

There are other ways that we can alleviate the problems of acid deposition. A process known as liming can increase the pH levels of bodies of water.2 Large quantities of hydrated lime are added to the water. The best way to solve the problems caused by acid deposition is for industries to try to limit the emissions of pollutants. There has been two ways in which industries have done this. Several companies have switched to using fuels that have a low sulphur content. Other industries have used buffers on the tops of their smokestacks, to reduce the amount of (SO2) in the air.4 There is no way that we can totally eliminate acid deposition.

We as humans, are not the only creators of this problem. Over the years, there has been an increase in the amount of annual precipitation. We can change our ways of production to help decrease the amount of acid precipitation, but then that would be greatly affecting our way of life. More then the acid rain itself does. Just like the cycle of affects the acid rain has on aquatic and terrestrial systems, there is the same type of cycle viewed when it comes to human life.

Acid Rain

Mardy Ying Assignment #4
WRIT 140
November 10, 1999
Smog: The Big Story
The beautiful mountain ranges surrounding the Los Angeles region make a magnificent view, but unfortunately the smog problem in Los Angeles prevents everyone from enjoying this. Smog is a large environmental problem that needs to be concentrated on to find solutions. The media, which includes television, newspaper, magazines, and organizations, is delivering messages to inform the public concerning smog, but are these messages expressing the true environmental issues about smog? In the present day world, the media does not adequately explain any environmental issue. Obviously, the media’s main objective is to get the best story; and sometimes the media would do anything to achieve that goal, even if it means to alter the truth and perception. Although the truth is Los Angeles has always been known for its severe smog problem, the media has recently began to hype this problem to the extent of positioning it as disastrous, because the media is constantly on the look out for dramatic news stories.

The smog problem in Los Angeles has been portrayed as being disastrous as the media dramatizes the harmful health effects of smog. The severity of health effects depends on the smog’s intensity and the amount of smog exposure. For susceptible people with asthma or other lung disorder, any weak level of smog could affect their health. As for healthy individuals, a medium level of smog will be enough to affect them. Smog reduces normal lung function on an individual by inflaming the walls of the lung, and therefore causing chest pains and coughs. This description of smog would be a true news story for the media to cover, but based on today’s media standard, this would not be considered a “story”. From the media’s view, a “story” is any dramatizing, heart-pounding, or shocking news that would grab the public’s attention. By warning people to stay indoors and avoid outdoor activities when there is a smog alert is more of an exciting “story” than simply stating the facts about smog. Reporting of an increase in hospital visits for lung disorder caused by smog is also a “story” that is worth covering.
The media greatly publicizes stories about smog causing harmful health effects on children. Children are a symbol of innocence, so a story about them being threatened by smog is unfortunately more of an exciting story than one about children protected from the harmful effects of smog. Recently, the media reported on a big study of 3,600 Southland school kids who had wheezing attacks that are related to nitrogen dioxide found in smog (Cone B1). Smog is now seen as life threatening as it was blamed for the death of a 14 year-old brother of Maggie Perales, a Bell Gardens resident, who died from cancer. The brother attended Suva Elementary School in the city of Bell Gardens that is next to chrome-plating plants emitting high level of toxic chemicals into the air (Cone B1). It is this constant exposure to these chemicals that have caused the cancer found in Perales’s brother. There are many more identical stories about children dying from highly toxic chemicals found in smog, because they either live or attend school near polluting factories. Such a death-related story only personifies smog to be like a murderer as it “contaminate our communities and kill our children” as Maggie Perales reacted upon the smog’s deadly force.
The media has hyped the smog problem by distorting people’s view about smog according to Dr. John Peters, Professor of Preventing Medicine at USC School of Medicine. He said, “I’ve heard people say that living in L.A. is like smoking a pack a dayclearly, that’s nonsense. Whether it’s like smoking one cigarette a day, half a cigarette a day, a tenth a daywe don’t know.” That misconception is an example of how the media has hyped the smog problem made by displaying dramatic news stories that alters a person’s perception on smog.
As our society has grown to hate cigarettes through campaigns, lawsuits, and those bulletin boards ridiculing cigarettes, Los Angeles is also on the same kind of path dealing with smog. The hatred towards cigarettes is a result of the media constantly delivering messages saying how cigarettes are killers, and how the cigarette companies have no sympathy for the cigarette-related deaths. This same trend is now seen with smog as being a killer, causing the deaths of innocent children. As a result, it is now a war to fight the smog problem in Los Angeles.

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Agencies and businesses willing to contribute to programs to help fight the smog war is the kind of story the media wants. The hyped-up media coverage on smog has influenced agencies and businesses to get involve with the fight, because they know that their name of the agency or business will be on the news. The South Coast Air Quality Management District holds annual Clean Air Awards to reward agencies and businesses in their work to fight this problem. Companies like Costco Wholesale, GTE, and Long Beach Bike Station received big awards in this year’s Clean Air Award in their contribution in helping to clean the air. A large collaboration of 29 different companies has started a program called Quick Charge L.A., a $3.5 million project that will be installing 200 charging stations for electric vehicles throughout the entire city. The media recognized that such stories about funded programs like Quick Charge is a “story” to show that there are people willing to fight for better air.

In the early fall of 1999, the exciting news about Los Angeles being no longer the Smog Capital of the U.S. has changed what the media has been covering about smog. The media, with all of its hyped stories, has made smog so disastrous that this exciting news was seen as a huge victory for Los Angeles. There was so much media attention on this story that the media began dramatizing how all the hard work and efforts into air quality control have paid off. The way the media presented the news to the public was as if Los Angeles had won the smog war, and Los Angeles no longer has to worry about it.
This was another example of a misconception the media plays on the public, what the media left out was the fact that Los Angeles could very easily become the smoggiest city in the nation. Houston became the nation’s smoggiest city, only because it had the most stage 1 alerts this year, which was only one more than Los Angeles. Los Angeles still has the very potential to win back its unfortunate title as Smog Capital of the U.S. Even though this city has the toughest anti-smog rules in the world, it was the mild weather this year that was most responsible for the better air quality. Weather is critical to smog formation, and its conditions can easily vary so much that it takes years to confirm air quality trends. The weather may easily heat up next year, and Los Angeles would once again win back its unfortunate title. According to Bryan Lambeth, a meteorologist with the Texas National Resource Conservation Commission, ” we aren’t yet ready to declare a winner and a loser in the smog wars”. Tim Carmicheal, executive director of the Los Angeles-based environment group Coalition for Clear Air, believes that even though Houston has won the title, the air in Los Angeles is still bad. Houston has the title, because it had the most Stage 1 smog alerts in the country, but “if you look at the number of days we violate the standards, we still have the worst air in the country. It’s still harmful to our health to breathe the air for many, many days this year.” The city should be proud that the smog problem is alleviating, but what Carmicheal was trying to say is that this victory should be a motivation to improve the air quality and prevent future severe smog problems.
Not only is smog a health “disaster” according to the media, it is also an economical “disaster” for businesses causing air pollution. Because the media has hyped the smog problem, communities and environmental groups have largely emerged to demonstrate against industries and refineries. Business groups are worried about the economic impact of possibly reducing the use of refineries to meet the demands of protestors with their tougher anti-smog regulations. If the new anti-smog rules are passed, companies owning large fleets of diesel trucks will be forced to newly equip their fleets with engines that run on alternative fuel other than diesel. The use of diesel fuel has been the cause of cancer in Los Angeles and contributes a large part of smog formation. The Air Quality Management District has already spent $25 million on replacing just 800 diesel trucks with cleaner engines to relieve some of the environmental pressures of smog from diesel trucks, however those companies will be paying a much higher amount for converting their trucks to better engines if the new plans pass. The new anti-smog regulations are still in debate as business groups arguing that the laws are strict enough for smog control, while the environmental groups and communities are fighting for cleaner air.
The perception and the outright creation of the smog “disaster” that the media has played a role in have stirred up contemporary environmentalism based on individualism and self-gratification. Smog is an environmental concern for Los Angeles, and it is good to hear that there is a rise in numbers of environmental organizations and environmentally aware communities demonstrating and protesting to solve this disastrous smog issue. At the same time, there was also a rise in dramatic smog stories presented by the media to hype the smog issue to the extent as being disastrous and a war “enemy”. It seems most likely that all aspects on contemporary environmentalism ranging from agencies to communities were started knowing that they will be on the 7 o’clock news report on NBC. Contemporary environmentalism is nothing but a selfish act by individuals or groups of individuals taking advantage of what the media has to offer, which is public exposure.
The media is always on the constant look out for potential smog “stories” to make the fight against smog a huge issue. By hyping the smog problems to the extent as being disastrous, the media builds up dramatic news stories that appeal to the public. It has become to a point where these dramatic news stories have motivated the society of Los Angeles to fight against smog, not because this society wants cleaner air, but it wants media attention.


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