Is Acid Rain Still A Thing?

Remember when acid rain was the country’s biggest environmental concern? It’s not a phrase you often hear anymore, presumably because climate change has replaced it as a more pressing matter. But does that mean acid rain went away or did we just stop paying as much attention to it?

I wish I could I could wrap this up more concisely, but a simple “yes” or “no” does not accurately answer those queries. The best brief answer is that yes, acid rain still exists though it’s certainly less prevalent than it was at its peak. Allow me to explain…

WHAT IS ACID RAIN?

Before we get too far, it’s probably best to recap the definition of acid rain since, if you’re like me, while you definitely recall the term, you may not remember precisely what it is.

Acid rain is, true to its name, acidic precipitation that can fall to the ground in the form of rain, snow, hail, fog, etc. It is typically created via pollution – when sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides enter the atmosphere, they combine with water molecules and at some point fall back to the earth.

Technically, pretty much all rain is at least somewhat acidic because carbon dioxide also mixes with rain and turns into a weak carbonic acid, but that is not what we refer to as acid rain.

Acid rain isn’t harmful to people (not anymore in rain form, anyway, than just breathing in those same pollutants,) but it does hurt plants by removing nutrients from the soil. Moreover, it releases aluminum into bodies of water, which kills some fish and aquatic wildlife and makes it difficult for others to breed.

WHY IS IT LESS OF A PROBLEM?

“Government regulations” may be considered a dirty phrase in conservative circles, but it’s precisely what has kept acid rain in check. First, the Clean Air Act of 1970 reduced the overall rate of emissions, then legislative updates twenty years later specifically targeted sulfur dioxide emissions to further tackle the problem. Scientists estimate there’s ten times less acid rain than there was back in the 1970s.

That doesn’t mean the effects are gone. Some ecosystems, particularly in northeast United States, still have metal-filled soil decades later making new plant growth difficult.

BUT ON A GLOBAL SCALE…

While those previous answers were very U.S. specific, acid rain is not unique to one country. In fact, other parts of the world still experience it at worrisome rates due to a lack of emissions regulations. It’s particularly a problem in parts of Asia – think India and China – where industrialization is booming and pollution is rampant. All that burned coal and fossil fuel has scientists concerned that acid rain damage could reach the levels that the U.S. and Europe experienced decades ago.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Eliminating acid rain ultimately comes down to eliminating fossil fuel emissions – on a personal level, the most you can do is alter your choices and actions to live a life less reliant on non-renewable energy.

Obviously, that’s good practice in general. Americans might not actively live in fear of acid rain falling from the sky, but we know the other forms of destruction that our energy consumption creates and that’s equally if not more scary.

47 comments

Virgene L
Virgene L4 hours ago

Folks, this is why we need regulations! The companies will not take the steps themselves as it will reduce their bottom line. Anything goes--polluting our Earth, air and water for a few more dollars. In spite of regulation (THANK YOU!) they are still in business, so it seems their bottom line wasn't hurt that much. Thanks.

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Maria P
Maria P5 hours ago

Thank you for sharing

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Lisa M
Lisa M6 hours ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M6 hours ago

Thanks.

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN hEARFIELD2 days ago

tyfs

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Nita L
Nita L2 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

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HEIKKI R
HEIKKI R2 days ago

thank you

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Colin C
Colin C2 days ago

Thanks for the article

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 days ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 days ago

Thanks.

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