According to the U.S. EPA, acid rain is a mixture of both dry and wet deposits that rains down from our atmosphere. These rains contain particles that are both moist and dry. They also contain very high percentages of sulfuric and nitric acids.
To be classified explicitly as acid rain, there must also be dry deposits in the atmosphere. This occurs in several ways. The chemical precursors for the formation of acid rain must be present.
Acid rain can have a second cause. Both natural and human-made things can cause it. A volcanic eruption or long-dead plants can be partially responsible for it. The same goes for emissions from cars and other things that use fossil fuel to propel them.
In the United States and the United Kingdom, about two-thirds of all the acid rain and chemicals such as nitric acid and sulfuric acid released into the atmosphere come from our power plants. These depend mainly on fossil fuels, petroleum, to operate.
The gases created react in the atmosphere. They interact with other chemicals such as oxygen or water in the atmosphere, and when they do, they form other compounds of an acidic nature.
The rain that falls will be much more acidic, and when this happens, it can cause great difficulty.
Unfortunately, this is not all caused by our burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels burned hundreds of miles away from you can cause acid rain over your home, meaning that acid rain is not a local but a global problem, as winds can pick up emissions from power plants and blow them hundreds, if not thousands of miles away.
In an area where the weather is arid, such as the desert or the midwest, the acid can cling to things like dust or smoke blowing around and fall to the ground as a strictly dry precipitation event. It can then stick to the ground, to your car, to your house, or the trees in your yard, causing breakdowns or other problems.
When you think of acid, you may think of toxic burns and chemicals. But when it comes to rain, acid rain is not what you might expect. Read on to learn more about acid rain, including whether it’s safe to drink it.
Acid rain, also called acid deposition, becomes acidic as a result of atmospheric pollution. Natural sources, such as volcanoes, cause some atmospheric pollution. Other causes include vehicles, heavy equipment, manufacturing, oil refining, and other industries.
But the most common cause of this type of air pollution is the industrial burning of coal and other fossil fuels to generate electricity, which releases waste gases that contain harmful sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOX). When these sulfur and nitrogen oxides mix with the water and oxygen in the air, they form acids.
What is acid precipitation?
The acidity and alkalinity of water are represented as a pH value measured on a scale of 0 to 14, with 14 being the most alkaline, seven neutral, and 0 the most acidic. Rain is considered “acid rain” when the pH is between 4.2 and 4.4.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), acid rain can include rain, snow, fog, hail, and even dust. In high concentrations, acid precipitation can be harmful to plants, landscapes, and the environment as a whole. But in moderation, acid rain is nothing to worry about.
Most rain has an average pH of 5.6, making it slightly acidic. This results from the reaction of water and carbon dioxide in the air, and it is not dangerous to humans, living organisms, or plants. Finally, drinking water usually does not have a neutral pH because it contains dissolved minerals. This means that most acid rain is probably safe to drink, although it is not recommended.
You can drink rainwater safely if you boil and filter it first. Boiling rainwater removes all harmful pathogens while filtering it removes other unwanted impurities such as chemicals, dust, pollen, mold, and other contaminants.
When collecting rainwater for drinking, it is best to put it directly from the sky into a clean barrel or bucket. Ensure the barrel is not in the way of tree branches or other structures from which the water can drip. Also, let the water stand for at least 1 hour to allow the heavy particles at the bottom to settle.