Acid Rain
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  • Introduction
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Rain is an essential part of our lives. It allows plants to grow and helps provide us with the water that we need to survive. The rain, however, is not always just water; pollution in the air has started to change this great rain into something very dangerous: acid rain.

 

 

What is Acid Rain?

As the name suggest acid rain is simply when the rain becomes acidic, but what you might not know is that the everyday rain is already very weakly acidic.

Everyday rainwater usually has a pH of around 5-6.  It has, however, been recorded to have a pH of less than 3 (rain water in in USA was once measured at pH 1.8!) and this is what we call acid rain.

 

What Causes Acid Rain?

Acid rain is caused by pollutant gases in the atmosphere dissolving in the rain water and making it acidic. There are three main gases responsible for acid rain.

 


Pollutant Gas

Where does it come from? What does it do?

Carbon Dioxide   

Naturally exists in the atmosphere due to life processes such as respiration.

A cartoon man in cold weather can see his breath. - stock photo

Everyday rainwater is slightly acidic, due to carbon dioxide in the air dissolving to produce the very weak carbonic acid.  

Sulphur Dioxide

Produced by factories through the burning of fossil fuels:

 Nuclear power station on white background, vector - stock vector

Sulphur dioxide is also naturally produced during volcano eruptions:

Illustration of a volcano erupting - stock vector 

Sulphur Dioxide will dissolve in the rainwater to produce strong sulphuric acid (leading to acid rain).
Oxides of Nitrogen                

Produced by car engines with the ignition is switch on:

Generic sport utility vehicle emitting exhaust fumes - stock vector

 

Oxides of nitrogen are also naturally produced during lightning storms:

 Thunder cloud and lightning illustration over white background - stock photo

Oxides of nitrogen will dissolve in the rain water to produce strong nitric acid (leading to acid rain).

 

 

What Does Acid Rain Do? 

Acid rain is not usually strong enough to burn your skin and clothing, but it can have many detrimental effects on both the living and non-living things in our environment.  

 

 

How Can We Prevent Acid Rain?

All cars are now fitted with catalytic convertors to help convert the pollutant gases into less harmful ones.

Petrol companies have also produced low sulphur petrol to help decrease the amount of sulphur dioxide produced.  

Some of the carbon dioxide in the air is unavoidable, as it naturally exists due to life processes.  We could help prevent acid rain, however, by trying to produce less unnecessary CO2 through the use of alternative energy sources.  

  • Question 1
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What is the pH of everyday rain water?

strongly acidic

weakly acidic

neutral

weakly alkaline

strongly alkaline

  • Question 2
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Which of the following gases contribute to the formation of acid rain?

Oxygen

Carbon Dioxide

Sulphur Dioxide

Oxides of Hydrogen

Oxides of Nitrogen

Sodium Oxide

  • Question 3
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Match up the correct pollutant gas with its source.  

Column A

Column B

Carbon Dioxide
Volcano Eruptions
Sulphur Dioxide
Car Engines
Oxides of Nitrogen
Respiration
  • Question 4
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What is produced when sulphur dioxide dissolves in the rain water?

Sulphuric Acid

Sulphur Dioxide

Sulphur Hyrdroxide

Nitrogen Sulphate

  • Question 5
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Carbon dioxide dissolves in rain water to produce carbonic acid. Is carbonic acid strong or weak? 

weak

strong

  • Question 6
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Which of the following can be caused by acid rain? Tick any that apply.

damage to buildings

damage to cars

damage to plant life

damage to aquatic life

damage to stone structures

damage to metal structures

  • Question 7
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What have petrol companies done to help prevent the acid rain?

produced more fuel

produced less fuel

produced low sulphur fuel

produced high sulphur fuel

  • Question 8
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What have all cars been fitted with to help convert pollutant gaes into less harmful gases?

Currency Converter

Catalytic Converter

Petrol Convertoer

Pollution Converter

  • Question 9
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Which gas dissolves in water to produce Nitric Acid?

Carbon Dioxide

Sulphur Dioxide

Oxides of Nitrogen

  • Question 10
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What is the pH of acid rain?

strongly acidic

weakly acidic

neutral

weakly alkaline

strongly alkaline

Progress