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Acid Rain

Inorganic Reactions Experiment

Authors: Rachel Casiday and Regina Frey
Department of Chemistry, Washington
St. Louis, MO 63130

Natural Acidity of Rainwater

Pure water has a pH of 7.0 (neutral); however, natural, unpolluted rainwater actually
has a pH of about 5.6 (acidic).[Recall from Experiment 1 that pH is a measure of the
hydrogen ion (H+) concentration.] The acidity of rainwater comes from the natural
presence of three substances (CO2, NO, and SO2) found in the troposphere (the lowest
layer of the atmosphere). As is seen in Table I, carbon dioxide (CO2) is present in the
greatest concentration and therefore contributes the most to the natural acidity of

Gas Natural Sources Concentration

Carbon dioxide
Decomposition 355 ppm

Nitric oxide Electric

0.01 ppm
NO discharge
Sulfur dioxide
Volcanic gases 0-0.01 ppm
Table 1

Carbon dioxide, produced in the decomposition of organic material, is

the primary source of acidity in unpolluted rainwater.

NOTE: Parts per million (ppm) is a common concentration measure

used in environmental chemistry. The formula for ppm is given by:
Carbon dioxide reacts with water to form carbonic acid (Equation 1). Carbonic acid
then dissociates to give the hydrogen ion (H+) and the hydrogen carbonate ion (HCO3-
) (Equation 2). The ability of H2CO3to deliver H+ is what classifies this molecule as an
acid, thus lowering the pH of a solution.



Nitric oxide (NO), which also contributes to the natural acidity of rainwater, is formed
during lightning storms by the reaction of nitrogen and oxygen, two common
atmospheric gases (Equation 3). In air, NO is oxidized to nitrogen dioxide (NO 2)
(Equation 4), which in turn reacts with water to give nitric acid (HNO3) (Equation 5).
This acid dissociates in water to yield hydrogen ions and nitrate ions (NO 3-) in a
reaction analagous to the dissociation of carbonic acid shown in Equation 2, again
lowering the pH of the solution.




Acidity of Polluted Rainwater

Unfortunately, human industrial activity produces additional acid-forming compounds

in far greater quantities than the natural sources of acidity described above. In some
areas of the United States, the pH of rainwater can be 3.0 or lower, approximately
1000 times more acidic than normal rainwater. In 1982, the pH of a fog on the West
Coast of the United States was measured at 1.8! When rainwater is too acidic, it can
cause problems ranging from killing freshwater fish and damaging crops, to eroding
buildings and monuments.

Questions on Acidity of Rainwater

1. List two or more ways that you could test the acidity of a sample of rainwater.

2. Write a balanced chemical equation for the dissociation of nitric acid in water.
(HINT: Draw an analogy with Equation 2.)

3. The gaseous oxides found in the atmosphere, including CO2 and NO are nonmetal
oxides. What would happen to the pH of rainwater if the atmosphere contained metal
oxides instead? (HINT: Think back to Experiment 1.) Briefly, explain your answer.

Sources of Excess Acidity in Rainwater

What causes such a dramatic increase in the acidity of rain relative to pure water? The
answer lies within the concentrations of nitric oxide and sulfur dioxide in polluted air.
As shown in Table II and Figure 1, the concentrations of these oxides are much higher
than in clean air.

Gas Concentration
Nitric oxide Internal Combustion
0.2 ppm

Sulfur dioxide Fossil-fuel

0.1 - 2.0 ppm
SO2 Combustion
Table II

Humans cause many combustion processes that dramatically increase

the concentrations of acid-producing oxides in the atmosphere. Although
CO2 is present in a much higher concentration than NO and SO2,
CO2 does not form acid to the same extent as the other two gases. Thus,
a large increase in the concentration of NO and SO2 significantly affects
the pH of rainwater, even though both gases are present at much lower
concentration than CO2.

Figure 1

Comparison of the concentrations of

NO and SO2 in clean and polluted air.

About one-fourth of the acidity of rain is accounted for by nitric acid (HNO3). In
addition to the natural processes that form small amounts of nitric acid in rainwater,
high-temperature air combustion, such as occurs in car engines and power plants,
produces large amounts of NO gas. This gas then forms nitric acid via Equations 4
and 5. Thus, a process that occurs naturally at levels tolerable by the environment can
harm the environment when human activity causes the process (e.g., formation of
nitric acid) to occur to a much greater extent.

What about the other 75% of the acidity of rain? Most is accounted for by the
presence of sulfuric acid (H2SO4) in rainwater. Although sulfuric acid may be
produced naturally in small quantities from biological decay and volcanic activity
(Figure 1), it is produced almost entirely by human activity, especially the combustion
of sulfur-containing fossil fuels in power plants. When these fossil fuels are burned,
the sulfur contained in them reacts with oxygen from the air to form sulfur dioxide
(SO2). Combustion of fossil fuels accounts for approximately 80% of the total
atmospheric SO2 in the United States. The effects of burning fossil fuels can be
dramatic: in contrast to the unpolluted atmospheric SO2 concentration of 0 to 0.01
ppm, polluted urban air can contain 0.1 to 2 ppm SO2, or up to 200 times more SO2!
Sulfur dioxide, like the oxides of carbon and nitrogen, reacts with water to form
sulfuric acid (Equation 6).

Sulfuric acid is a strong acid, so it readily dissociates in water, to give an H+ ion and
an HSO4- ion (Equation 7). The HSO4- ion may further dissociate to give H+ and
SO42- (Equation 8). Thus, the presence of H2SO4 causes the concentration of H+ ions
to increase dramatically, and so the pH of the rainwater drops to harmful levels.



Questions on Sources of Acidity in Rainwater

4. At sea level and 25oC, one mole of air fills a volume of 24.5 liters, and the density
of air is 1.22x10-6 g/ml. Compute the mole fraction (i.e., moles of component /total
moles) and molarity of SO2 when the atmospheric concentration of SO2 is 2.0 ppm
(see note in Table I).

5. One strategy for limiting the amount of acid pollution in the atmosphere
is scrubbing. In particular, calcium oxide (CaO) is injected into the combustion
chamber of a power plant, where it reacts with the sulfur dioxide produced, to yield
solid calcium sulfite.

a. Write a balanced chemical equation for this reaction. (HINT: Consult the table of
common ions in the tutorial assignment for Experiment 1 to view the structure and
formula for sulfite; also, use your knowledge of the periodic table to deduce the
charge of the calcium ion. Using these facts, you can deduce the formula for calcium

b. Approximately one ton, or 9.0x102 kg, of calcium sulfite is generated each year for
every person served by a power plant. How much sulfur dioxide (in moles) is
prevented from entering the atmosphere when this much calcium sulfite is generated?
Show your calculation.

c. The final stage in the scrubbing process is to treat the combustion gases with a
slurry of solid CaO in water, in order to trap any remaining SO2 and convert it to
calcium sulfite. A slurry is a thick suspension of an insoluble precipitate in water.
Using the solubility guidelines provided in the lab manual for this experiment, predict
whether this stage of the scrubbing process will produce a slurry (i.e., precipitate) or a
solution (i.e., no precipitate) of calcium sulfite .

d. If MgO, rather than CaO, were used for scrubbing, would the product of the final
stage be a slurry or a solution of magnesium sulfite? (Assume that a very large
quantity of magnesium sulfite, relative to the amount of water, is produced.)

Environmental Effects of Acid Rain

Acid rain triggers a number of inorganic and biochemical reactions with deleterious
environmental effects, making this a growing environmental problem worldwide.

Many lakes have become so acidic that fish cannot live in them anymore.
Degradation of many soil minerals produces metal ions that are then washed
away in the runoff, causing several effects:
o The release of toxic ions, such as Al3+, into the water supply.
o The loss of important minerals, such as Ca2+, from the soil, killing trees
and damaging crops.
Atmospheric pollutants are easily moved by wind currents, so acid-rain effects
are felt far from where pollutants are generated.

Stone Buildings and Monuments in Acid Rain

Marble and limestone have long been preferred materials for constructing durable
buildings and monuments. The Saint Louis Art Museum, the Parthenon in Greece, the
Chicago Field Museum, and the United States Capitol building are all made of these
materials. Marble and limestone both consist of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), and
differ only in their crystalline structure. Limestone consists of smaller crystals and is
more porous than marble; it is used more extensively in buildings. Marble, with its
larger crystals and smaller pores, can attain a high polish and is thus preferred for
monuments and statues. Although these are recognized as highly durable materials,
buildings and outdoor monuments made of marble and limestone are now being
gradually eroded away by acid rain.

How does this happen? A chemical reaction (Equation 9) between calcium carbonate
and sulfuric acid (the primary acid component of acid rain) results in the dissolution
of CaCO3 to give aqueous ions, which in turn are washed away in the water flow.

This process occurs at the surface of the buildings or monuments; thus acid rain can
easily destroy the details on relief work (e.g., the faces on a statue), but generally does
not affect the structural integrity of the building. The degree of damage is determined
not only by the acidity of the rainwater, but also by the amount of water flow that a
region of the surface receives. Regions exposed to direct downpour of acid rain are
highly susceptible to erosion, but regions that are more sheltered from water flow
(such as under eaves and overhangs of limestone buildings) are much better
preserved. The marble columns of the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Trajan, in
Rome, provide a striking example: large volumes of rainwater flow directly over
certain parts of the columns, which have been badly eroded; other parts are protected
by wind effects from this flow, and are in extremely good condition even after nearly
2000 years!

Even those parts of marble and limestone structures that are not themselves eroded
can be damaged by this process (Equation 9). When the water dries, it leaves behind
the ions that were dissolved in it. When a solution containing calcium and sulfate ions
dries, the ions crystallize as CaSO4 2H2O, which is gypsum. Gypsum is soluble in water, so
it is washed away from areas that receive a heavy flow of rain. However, gypsum accumulates in
the same sheltered areas that are protected from erosion, and attracts dust, carbon particles, dry-
ash, and other dark pollutants. This results in blackening of the surfaces where gypsum

An even more serious situation arises when water containing calcium and sulfate ions penetrates
the stone's pores. When the water dries, the ions form salt crystals within the pore system. These
crystals can disrupt the crystalline arrangement of the atoms in the stone, causing the
fundamental structure of the stone to be disturbed. If the crystalline structure is disrupted
sufficiently, the stone may actually crack. Thus, porosity is an important factor in determining a
stone's durability.

Causes, Effects, And Solutions of Acid

By Sarn Phamornsuwana
"Acid Rain," or more precisely acid precipitation, is the word used to describe rainfall that has a pH level of less
than 5.6. This form of air pollution is currently a subject of great controversy because of it's worldwide environmental
damages. For the last ten years, this phenomenon has brought destruction to thousands of lakes and streams in the
United States, Canada, and parts of Europe. Acid rain is formed when oxides of nitrogen and sulfite combine with
moisture in the atmosphere to make nitric and sulfuric acids. These acids can be carried away far from its
origin. This report contains the causes, effects, and solutions to acid rain.
The two primary sources of acid rain are sulfur dioxide (SO2), and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). Sulfur
dioxide is a colourless, prudent gas released as a by-product of combusted fossil fuels containing
sulfur. A variety of industrial processes, such as the production of iron and steel, utility factories, and
crude oil processing produce this gas. In iron and steel production, the smelting of metal sulfate ore,
produces pure metal. This causes the release of sulfur dioxide. Metals such as zinc, nickel, and copper
are commonly obtained by this process. Sulfur dioxide can also be emitted into the atmosphere by
natural disasters or means. This ten percent of all sulfur dioxide emission comes from volcanoes, sea
spray, plankton, and rotting vegetation. Overall, 69.4 percent of sulfur dioxide is produced by industrial
combustion. Only 3.7 percent is caused by transportation

The other chemical that is also chiefly responsible for the make-up of acid rain is nitrogen
oxide. Oxides of nitrogen is a term used to describe any compound of nitrogen with any amount of
oxygen atoms. Nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen dioxide are all oxides of nitrogen. These gases are by-
products of firing processes of extreme high temperatures (automobiles, utility plants), and in chemical
industries (fertilizer production). Natural processes such as bacterial action in soil, forest fires, volcanic
action, and lightning make up five percent of nitrogen oxide emission. Transportation makes up 43
percent, and 32 percent belongs to industrial combustion. ["Acid Rain." The New World Book
Encyclopedia. 1993.]

Nitrogen oxide is a dangerous gas by itself. This gas attacks the membranes of the respiratory organs
and increases the likelihood of respiratory illness. It also contributes to ozone damage, and forms
smog. Nitrogen oxide can spread far from the location it was originated by acid rain.

As mentioned before, any precipitation with a pH level less than 5.6 is considered to be acid
rainfall. The difference between regular precipitation and acid precipitation is the pH level. pH is a
symbol indicating how acidic or basic a solution is in ratios of relative concentration of hydrogen ions in a
solution. A pH scale is used to determine if a specific solution is acidic or basic. Any number below
seven is considered to be acidic. Any number above seven is considered to be basic. The scale is color
coordinated with the pH level. Most pH scales use a range from zero to fourteen. Seven is the neutral
point (pure water). A pH from 6.5 to 8, is considered the safe zone. Between these numbers, organisms
are in very little or no harm.

Not only does the acidity of acid precipitation depend on emission levels, but also on the chemical
mixtures in which sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides interact in the atmosphere. Sulfur dioxide and
nitrogen oxides go through several complex steps of chemical reactions before they become the acids
found in acid rain. The steps are broken down into two phases, gas phase and aqueous phase. There
are various potential reactions that can contribute to the oxidation of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere
each having varying degrees of success. One possibility is photooxidation of sulfuric dioxide by means of
ultraviolet light. This process uses light form the of electromagnetic spectrum. This causes the loss of by
two oxygen atoms. This reaction was found to be an insignificant contributor to the formation of sulfuric
acid. A second and more common process is when sulfur dioxide reacts with moisture found in the
atmosphere. When this happens, sulfate dioxide immediately oxidizes to form a sulfite ion.

SO2 (g)+O2(g) -> SO3(g)

Afterwards, it becomes sulfuric acid when it joins with hydrogen atoms in the air.

SO3(g)+H2O(l) -> H2SO4(aq)

This reaction occurs quickly, therefore the formation of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere is assumed to
lead this type of oxidation to become sulfuric acid. Reaction example 1 (photooxidation), is slow due to
the absence of a catalyst, proving why it is not a significant contributor.
Another common reaction for sulfur dioxide to becomes sulfuric acid is by oxidation by ozone. This
reaction occurs at a preferable rate and is sometimes the main contributor to the oxidation of sulfuric
acid. This, hydroxy radical is produced by the photodecomposition of the ozone and is very highly
reactive with any species (type of chemical compounds). It does not require a catalyst and it is
approximately 108-109 times more abundant in the atmosphere than molecular oxygen. Other
insignificant reactions include oxidation by product of alkene-zone reactions, oxidation by reaction of
NxOy species, oxidation by reactive oxygen transients, and oxidation by peroxy radicals. These reactions
unfortunately prove to be insignificant for various reasons. All the reactions mentioned so far, are gas
phase reactions. In the aqueous phase, sulfur dioxide exists as three species:

[S(IV)] -> [SO2(aq)] + [HSO32-] + [SO32-]

This dissociation occurs in a two part process:

SO2(aq) -> H+ + HSO3 -

HSO3- (aq) -> H+ + SO32-

The oxidation process of aqueous sulfur dioxide by molecular oxygen relies on metal catalyst such as
iron and manganese. This reaction is unlike other oxidation process, which occurs by hydrogen
peroxide. It requires an additional formation of an intermediate (A-), for example peroxymonosulfurous
acid ion. This formation is shown below.

HSO3 H2O2 -> A- +H2O

A- +H -> H2SO4

Sulfur dioxide oxidation is most common in clouds and especially in heavily polluted air where
compounds such as ammonia and ozone are in abundance. These catalysts help convert more sulfur
dioxide into sulfuric acid. But not all of the sulfur dioxide is converted to sulfuric acid. In fact, a
substantial amount can float up into the atmosphere, transport to another area and return to earth

Like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides rise into the atmosphere and are oxidized in clouds to form nitric or
nitrous acid. These reactions are catalyzed in heavily polluted clouds where traces of iron, manganese,
ammonia, and hydrogen peroxide are present. Nitrogen oxides rise into the atmosphere mainly from
automobile exhaust. In the atmosphere it reacts with water to form nitric or nitrous acid.

NO2(g) + H2O(l) -> HNO3(aq)+HNO2(aq) [gas phase]

In the aqueous phase there are three equilibria to keep in mind for the oxidation of nitrogen oxide.

1.) 2NO2(g) + H2O(l) -> 2H+ + NO3 - + NO2 -

2.) NO(g) + NO2(g) + H2O(l) -> 2H+ + 2NO2 -
3.) 3NO2(g) + H2O(l) -> 2H+ + 2NO3 - + NO(g)

These reactions are limited by the partial pressures of nitrogen oxides present in the atmosphere, and
the low solubility of nitrogen oxides, increase in reaction rate occurs only with the use of a metal catalyst,
similar to those used in the aqueous oxidation of sulfur dioxide.
Over the years, scientists have noticed that some forests have been growing more and more slowly
without reason. Trees do not grow as fast as they did before. Leaves and pines needles turn brown and
fall off when they are supposed to be green.

Eventually, after several years of collecting and recording information on the chemistry and biology of
the forest, researchers have concluded that this was the work of acid rain. A rainstorm occurs in a
forest. The summer spring washes the leaves of the branches and fall to the forest floor below. Some of
the water is absorbed into the soil. Water run-off enters nearby streams, rivers, or lakes. That soil may
have neutralized some or all of the acidity of the acid rainwater. This ability of neutralization is call
buffering capacity. Without buffering capacity, soil pH would change rapidly. Midwestern states like
Nebraska and Indiana have soil that is well buffered. Nonetheless, mountainous northwest areas such as
the Adirondack mountains are less able to buffer acid. High pH levels in the soil help accelerate soil
weathering and remove nutrients. It also makes some toxic elements, for example aluminum, more
soluble. High aluminum concentrations in soil can prevent the use of nutrients by plants. Acid rain does
not kill trees immediately or directly. Instead, it is more likely to weaken the tree by destroying its leaves,
thus limiting the nutrients available to it. Or, acid rain can seep into the ground, poisoning the trees with
toxic substances that are slowly being absorbed through the roots. When acid rain falls, the acidic
rainwater dissolves the nutrients and helpful minerals from the soil. These minerals are then washed
away before trees and other plants can use them to grow. Not only does acid rain strip away the
nutrients from the plants, they help release toxic substance such as aluminum into the soil. This occurs
because these metals are bound to the soil under normal conditions, but the additional dissolving action
of hydrogen ions causes rocks and small bound soil particles to break down. When acid rain is frequent,
leaves tend to lose their protective waxy coating, When leaves lose their coating, the plant itself is open
to any possible disease. By damaging the leaves, the plant can not produce enough food energy for it to
remain healthy. Once the plant is weak, it can become more vulnerable to disease, insects, and cold
weather which may ultimately kill it.

Acid rain does not only effect organisms on land, but also effect organisms in aquatic biomes. Most
lakes and streams have a pH level between six and eight. Some lakes are naturally acidic even without
the effects of acid rain. For example, Little Echo Pond in New York has a pH level of 4.2.

There are several routes through which acid rain can enter the lakes. Some chemical substances
exist as dry particles in the atmosphere, while others enter directly into the lake in a form of
precipitation. Acid rain that has fallen on land can be drained through sewage systems leading to
lakes. Another way acids can enter the lake is by spring acid shock. When acid snow melts in the spring,
the acids in the snow seeps into the ground. Some run-off the ground and into lakes.

Spring is a vulnerable time for many species since this is the time for reproduction. The sudden
change in pH level is dangerous because the acid can cause serious deformities in their
young. Generally, the young of most species are more sensitive than the elders. But not all species can
tolerate the same amount of acid. For example, frogs may tolerate relatively high levels of acidity, while
snails are more sensitive to pH changes.

Sulfuric acid in polluted precipitation interferes with the fish's proficiency to take in oxygen, salt, and
nutrients. For freshwater fish, maintaining osmoregulation (the ability to maintain a state of balance
between salt and minerals in the organism's tissue) is essential to stay alive. Acid molecules cause
mucus to form in their gills preventing the fish to absorb oxygen well. Also, a low pH level will throw off
the balance of salt in the fish's tissue. Calcium levels of some fish cannot be maintained due to the
changes in pH level. This causes a problem in reproduction: the eggs are too brittle or weak. Lacking
calcium causes weak spines and deformities in bones. Sometimes when acid rainfall runs off the land, it
carries fertilizers with it. Fertilizer helps stimulate the growth of algae because of the amount of nitrogen
in it. However, because of the increase in the death of fish the decomposition takes up even more
oxygen. This takes away from surviving fish. In other terms, acid rain does not help aquatic ecosystems
in anyway.
Acid rain does not only damage the natural ecosystems, but also man-made materials and
structures. Marble, limestone, and sandstone can easily be dissolved by acid rain. Metals, paints,
textiles, and ceramic can effortlessly be corroded. Acid rain can downgrade leather and rubber. Man-
made materials slowly deteriorate even when exposed to unpolluted rain, but acid rain helps speed up the
process. Acid rain causes carvings and monuments in stones to lose their features.

In limestone, acidic water reacts with calcium to form calcium sulfate.

CaCO3 + H2SO4 -> CaSO4 + H2CO3

For iron, the acidic water produces an additional proton giving iron a positive charge.

4Fe(s) + 2O2(g) + 8 (aq) -> 4Fe2+ (aq) + 4H2O(l)

When iron reacts with more oxygen it forms iron oxide (rust).

4Fe2+ + (aq) + O2(g) + 4H2O(l) -> 2Fe2O3(s) + 8H+ + (aq)

The repairs on building and monuments can be quite costly. In Westminster, England, up to ten
million pounds was spent necessitated on repairs damaged by acid rain. In 1990, the United States spent
thirty-five billion dollars on paint damage. In 1985, the Cologne Cathedral cost the Germans
approximately twenty million dollars in repairs. The Roman monuments cost the Romans about two
hundred million dollars. []

Most importantly, acid rain can affect health of a human being. It can harm us through the atmosphere
or through the soil from which our food is grown and eaten from. Acid rain causes toxic metals to break
loose from their natural chemical compounds. Toxic metals themselves are dangerous, but if they are
combined with other elements, they are harmless. They release toxic metals that might be absorbed by
the drinking water, crops, or animals that human consume. These foods that are consumed could cause
nerve damage to children or severe brain damage or death. Scientists believe that one metal, aluminum,
is suspected to relate to Alzheimer's disease.

One of the serious side effects of acid rain on human is respiratory problems. The sulfur dioxide and
nitrogen oxide emission gives risk to respiratory problems such as dry coughs, asthma, headaches, eye,
nose, and throat irritation. Polluted rainfall is especially harmful to those who suffer from asthma or those
who have a hard time breathing. But even healthy people can have their lungs damaged by acid air
pollutants. Acid rain can aggravate a person's ability to breathe and may increase disease which could
lead to death.

In 1991, the United States and Canada signed an air quality agreement. Ever since that time, both
countries have taken actions to reduce sulfur dioxide emission. The United States agree to reduce their
annual sulfur dioxide emission by about ten million tons by the year 2000. A year before the agreement,
the Clean Air Pact Amendment tried to reduce nitrogen oxide by two million tons. This program focused
on the source that emits nitrogen oxide, automobiles and coal-fired electric utility boilers.

Reducing nitrogen oxide emission in a utility plant starts during the combustion phase. A procedure
called Overfire Air is used to redirect a fraction of the total air in the combustion chamber. This requires
the combustion process, which is redirected to an upper furnace. This causes the combustion to occur
with less O2 than required, thus slowing down the transformation of atmospheric nitrogen to nitrogen
oxide. After combustion, a system of catalytic reductions are put into effect. This system embraces the
injection of ammonia gas upstream of the catalytic reaction chamber. The gas will react with nitrogen
oxide by this reaction.

4NO + 4NH3 + O2 -> 4N2+6H2O

Then it will react with NO2 by the following reaction.

2NO2 + 4NH3 + O2 -> 3N2 + 6H2O

The safe nitrogen can be released into the atmosphere.

Since most nitrogen oxide emissions are from cars, catalytic converters must be install on cars to
reduce this emission. The catalytic converter is mounted on the exhaust pipe, forcing all the exhaust to
pass though it. This converter looks like a dense honeycomb, but it is coated with either platimun,
palladium, or rhodium. This converts nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxides and unburned hydrocarbons into a
cleaner state.

To reduce sulfur dioxide emission utility plants are required to do several steps by the Clean Air Act
Amendment. Before combustion, these utilities plants have to go through a process call coal
cleaning. This process is performed gravitationally. Meaning, it is successful in removing pyritic sulfur
due to its high specific gravity, but it is unsuccessful in removing chemically bound organic sulfur. This
cleaning process is only limited by the percent of pyritic sulfur in the coal. Coal with high amount of pyritic
sulfur is coal in higher demands. Another way to reduce sulfur dioxide before combustion is by
burning coal with low sulfur content. Low sulfur content coals are called subituminous coal. This
process in reducing sulfur dioxide is very expensive due to the high demand of subituminous coal.

During combustion, a process called Fluidized Bed Combustion (FBC), is used to reduce sulfur dioxide
emissions into the atmosphere. This process contains limestone or a sandstone bed that are crushed and
diluted into the fuel. It is important that a balance is established between the heat liberated within the bed
from fuel combustion, and the heat removed by the flue gas as it leaves. Flue gas is the mixture of gases
resulting from combustion and other reactions in a chamber. This enables the limestones to react with
sulfur dioxide and reduce emission by 90 percent. After combustion, a process known as wet flue gas
desulfurization is taken into action. This process requires a web scrubber at the downward end of the
boiler. This process is very similar to FBC. This scrubber can be made of either limestone or sodium
hydroxide. Limestone is more commonly used. As sulfur dioxide enters this area it reacts with the
limestone in the following example:

CaCO3 + SO2 + H2O + O2 -> CaSO3 + CaSO4 + CO2 + H2O

After being scrubbed, which is the term used for the phase after coal has past the wet scrubber, the flue
gas is re-emmited and the waste solids are disposed.

Acid rain is an issue that can not be over looked. This phenomenon destroys anything it touches or
interacts with it. When acid rain damages the forest or the environment it affects humans in the long
run. Once forests are totally destroyed and lakes are totally polluted animals begin to decrease because
of lack of food and shelter. If all the animals, which are our food source, die out, humans too would die
out. Acid rain can also destroy our homes and monuments that humans hold dearly.

What humans can do, as citizens, to reduce sulfur and nitrogen dioxide emission is to reduce the use
of fossil fuels. Car pools, public transportation, or walking can reduce tons of nitrogen oxide
emissions. Using less energy benefits the environment because the energy used comes from fossil fuels
which can lead to acid rain. For example, turning off lights not being used, and reduce air conditioning
and heat usage. Replacing old appliances and electronics with newer energy efficient products is also an
excellent idea. Sulfur dioxide emission can be reduced by adding scrubbers to utility plants. An
alternative power source can also be used in power plants to reduce emissions. These alternatives are:
geothermal energy, solar power energy, wind energy, and water energy.

In conclusion, the two primary sources of acid rain is sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Automobiles
are the main source of nitrogen oxide emissions, and utility factories are the main source for sulfur
dioxide emissions. These gases evaporate into the atmosphere and then oxidized in clouds to form nitric
or nitrous acid and sulfuric acid. When these acids fall back to the earth they do not cause damage to
just the environment but also to human health. Acid rain kills plant life and destroys life in lakes and
ponds. The pollutants in acid rain causes problem in human respiratory systems. The pollutants attack
humans indirectly through the foods they consumed. They effected human health directly when humans
inhale the pollutants. Governments have passed laws to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen
oxide, but it is no use unless people start to work together in stopping the release of these pollutants. If
the acid rain destroys our environment, eventually it will destroy us as well.