Acid rain is still a major cause of damage to ecosystems, water resources, agriculture and infrastructure
Every year, a giant brown cloud of pollution grows and moves across South-East Asia. In this cloud are smoke from deforestation, but also huge quantities of SO2 and NO2 from the burning of fossil fuels. These chemicals lead to the formation of sulphuric and nitric acid in clouds, which do not respect national boundaries. The acid rain they produce can fall far from the source of the pollution, and cause major damage to ecosystems, water resources, agriculture and infrastructure. The economic costs are far from insignificant.
There is a long-established link between poor pollution control and economic and environmental impacts. But what are developed and developing nations doing in their struggle to reduce this perennial, transboundary problem?
Andrew Bone has been investigating the situation concerning national policies and international law regarding transboundary pollution, and asks the question: Are we doing enough?
Unusually acidic precipitation, the result of air pollution. Acid rain is a transboundary problem, with clouds carrying the acid to other countries, and therefore the subject of international and bilateral agreements.
The emissions of SO2 and NO2 leads to the formation of sulphuric and nitrous acid in clouds. Acid rain can fall far from the source of the pollution, and cause major damage to ecosystems, water resources, agriculture and infrastructure.
The equations are:
Sulphuric acid forms from SO2 gaseous emissions, from coal-fired power stations primarily, which reacts with atmospheric oxygen to form sulphuric trioxide, SO3:
2SO2 + O2 → 2SO3
This gaseous sulphuric trioxide is carried to clouds, where it reacts with water droplets to form aqueous sulphuric acid, H2SO4:
SO3 + H2O → H2SO4
In mist, the sulphur dioxide can react directly with water:
SO2 + H2O → H2SO3
2H2SO3 + O2 → 2H2SO4
Nitric acid forms from NO2 gaseous emissions, from petrol and diesel vehicle exhausts primarily, which react with atmospheric water to form nitric acid, HNO3:
2NO2 + H2O → HNO2 + HNO3
N2O4 can also form nitric acid:
N2O4 + H2O → HNO2 + HNO3
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