Acid rain is a result of air pollution. When any type of fuel is burnt, lots of different chemicals are produced. The smoke that comes from a fire or the fumes that come out of a car exhaust don’t just contain the sooty grey particles that you can see – they also contains lots of invisible gases that can be even more harmful to our environment.
Power stations, factories and cars all burn fuels and therefore they all produce polluting gases. Some of these gases (especially nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide) react with the tiny droplets of water in clouds to form sulphuric and nitric acids. The rain from these clouds then falls as very weak acid – which is why it is known as “acid rain”. The release of sulphur dioxide can also occur naturally when a volcano erupts.
Acid rain was considered a major problem in the 1980s and while steps to reduce sulphur emissions have been successful we are still feeling the effects today, and there is still work to be done.
Young People’s Trust for the Environment