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Effects of Acid Rain - Materials

 Image: Picture of Boston skyline over the Charles River.

Acid rain and the dry deposition of acidic particles contribute to the corrosion of metals (such as bronze) and the deterioration of paint and stone (such as marble and limestone). These effects significantly reduce the societal value of buildings, bridges, cultural objects (such as statues, monuments, and tombstones), and cars.

Dry deposition of acidic compounds can also dirty buildings and other structures, leading to increased maintenance costs. To reduce damage to automotive paint caused by acid rain and acidic dry deposition, some manufacturers use acid-resistant paints, at an average cost of $5 for each new vehicle (or a total of $61 million per year for all new cars and trucks sold in the U.S.). EPA’s Acid Rain Program will reduce damage to materials by limiting SO2 emissions. The benefits of EPA’s Acid Rain Program are measured, in part, by the costs now paid to repair or prevent damage—the costs of repairing buildings and bridges, using acid-resistant paints on new vehicles, plus the value that society places on the details of a statue lost forever to acid rain.

For Students

To observe the effects of acid rain on marble and limestone—two building materials commonly used in monuments, ancient buildings, and in many modern structures—conduct the following experiment:

The next day, see if you can tell which piece of chalk is more worn away.

This experiment with chalk allows you to see the effect of acid rain on marble and limestone because chalk is made of calcium carbonate, a compound occurring in rocks, such as marble and limestone, and in animal bones, shells, and teeth.

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