Which anthropogenic pollutants are implicated in the formation of most acidic precipitation?

1 Answer
Oct 20, 2016

Many anthropogenic pollutants cause acid rain but the most notable by far is sulfur.


Anthropogenic pollutants that cause acid rain are most commonly produced from the combustion of coal. Coal contains many elements such as nitrogen, sulfur and carbon just to name a few and when coal is burned they combine these elements with oxygen to make oxide gases such as carbon dioxide.

Some of these products aren't an issue when it comes to acid rain however sulfur dioxide is the most heavily to blame for the formation of acidic precipitation. When the coal is burned and the sulfur is combined with oxygen to form a gas, it will exit the smoke stack and move up into the atmosphere where it will encounter water in the form of clouds and gas. The sulfur then mixes with this water to form sulfuric acid which is one of the most corrosive acids on the the planet.

Before the rain falls, its pH level has been changed from around 6-7 to anywhere near 4 which is a significant decrease. This leads to the destructive nature of acid rain on ecosystems sensitive to pH disturbances.