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Acid rain broadly refers to deposition that may be either wet or dry falling from atmosphere; it contains higher than standard amounts of sulfuric and nitric acids. The forerunners may be either natural, like decaying vegetation and volcanoes, or man-made due to combustion of fossil fuel.

The process of deposition started with the debut of the Industrial Revolution. In 1852, it was first detected by Robert Angus Smith, a Scottish chemist. He noted the link between acid rain and pollution of atmosphere in Englandís Manchester. The phenomenon started getting focused upon from the 1960s, and the term Ďacid rainí†came into coinage from 1972.

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In the USA, two thirds of acid rain is caused by electric power generated from burning coal or other fossil fuels. It leads to reaction in atmosphere with oxygen, water, etc. to form multiple acidic compounds. A mild solution of sulfuric and nitric acid is formed. The wind blows it across the land covering miles running into hundreds.

Wet acid rain falls in the form of fog, snow or mist. Seeping through the soil, it impacts on plant and animal life.

In places of dry weather, the acidic chemicals are absorbed by the dust and smoke. As it falls it sticks to the ground covering buildings, cars as well as trees. When rain falls, the dust is washed causing increase in runoff; this water becomes more acidic. Half of the atmospheric acidity returns to earth as dry deposition.

The level of acidity depends on the pH level of water. The scale starts from 0 and goes up to 14 Ė†the lower number indicates higher level of acidic content; high points to alkaline and seven is taken to be neutral.

The greatest impact of acid rain is on water bodies. Even dry deposition ultimately leads to it flowing into water. Forests are greatly harmed by it. Leaves fall off, barks are damaged and growth of trees gets stunted. It makes the forests vulnerable to extreme weather lashes, diseases and insects; microorganisms are killed disrupting flow of nutrients. Acidic clouds covering trees at high altitude blanket them and cause similar problems. Some of the species are more tolerant towards these polluted waters, but since the ecosystem is intimately interconnected, non-aquatic creatures like birds and man also get harmed.

Acid rain also damages pieces of art and architecture, because it can corrode some materials. Dropping on limestone constructions, it reacts with the minerals in these stones causing disintegration. Modern buildings, rail tracks, cars, airplanes, bridges made of steel as well as underground and overhead pipes are also corroded.†

To address the problem of air pollution and health of human beings some steps have been introduced to reduce harmful emissions. Producers of energy are being mandated to use scrubbers for trapping pollutants prior to their atmospheric release. Cars are now fitted with catalytic converters to bring down emission levels. Attention is now focused on use of alternative sources of energy.†††

Thus, the only way of fighting acid rain is controlling pollutant releases or burning lesser fossil fuels. Even if this can be done today, it will take years for the harmful effects to totally vanish.

Acid rain may cause the increase in breathing problems of adults and children. Everything man consumes has come in contact with acid rain. Acid rain is held responsible for 550 premature deaths and 1,520 visits to the emergency per year in Canada and USA.

Monitoring of acid rain is being done meticulously in some regions. Generation of electricity was responsible for 67% of the emissions causing acid rain in 1998. Individually, we can do our bit by less use of dishwasher, washing machine, air conditioner and by turning off lights among other things. Above all, we should walk, cycle or use public transport like buses and trains instead of using the car by one person.

The northeastern regions of the USA suffer the most from acid rain. Many cities with dense population are concentrated here. Power plants supporting innumerable industries are located in the northeast as well. Direction of winds blowing from Midwest to northeast pollute the regions and further aggravates the situation.

Large swaths of land in Southeast Asia are currently experiencing dropping of acid rain. China leads the pack in producing SO2 thanks to its rapid economic growth and lack of proper pollution controlling devices. India is not far behind in its race to catch up with industrial growth too.

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