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Acid Rain in New England

Acid Rain and Other Pollution Problems

Newport Centre, VT - Photographed by Ian Cohen  - Click for a larger image.

In addition to the direct effects of acid rain, both the emissions and our attempts to control them affect other forms of environmental pollution.

Sulfur and nitrate emissions can also lead to the formation of small particles (PM2.5). These particles are too small to fall out of the atmosphere. They can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream. Exposure to such particles can affect both the lungs and the heart. Larger particles are of less concern, although they can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat.

Also, small particles scatter light, which can reduce visibility. This detracts from our appreciation of the many magnificent scenic vistas in New England and the rest of the world. More about this problem, called Regional Haze »

Nitrogen oxides are also important in the formation of ground-level ozone. In the presence of sunlight, they can react with other chemicals to increase the concentration of ozone to a point where it can lead to health effects. For more information on Ground-level Ozone »

Coal fired power plants also emit mercury, another trace element found in coal. Once in the atmosphere, the mercury can be deposited on the Earth. It finds its way into lakes and streams, where it is absorbed by microscopic plants and animals. These can be consumed by fish. The fish will store the mercury. When humans eat the fish, they can get a potentially harmful dose of mercury. For more information on Mercury »

Burning of fossil fuels can also release other toxic chemicals such as cadmium, benzene, and formaldehyde. Usually these are released in very small amounts, but over time, and when combined with emissions from other sources, they can accumulate. For information on Air Toxics »

The same actions which will help reduce acid rain will also affect the climate. In addition to nitrates, power plants emit large amounts of carbon dioxide. Gases which hold heat better than dry air are called "greenhouse gases." Carbon dioxide and most oxides of nitrogen are both greenhouse gases, and so increasing the concentration of them makes the atmosphere hold more heat. This can lead to an increase in the global average temperature. Many scientists feel we already have evidence that this is happening, and feel that increased concentrations of greenhouse gases will have serious consequences. By reducing our use of electrical energy, increasing the efficiency of power plants, and using sources of energy which do not require combustion (wind, solar, etc), we can reduce acid rain and emissions of greenhouse gases. For more information on Climate Change »

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