Acid Rain

Acid rain is a great problem in our world. It not only causes fish and plants to die
in the waters it contaminates, but adversely affects the entire food chain. Acid rain is all
the rain and snow that contains an unnatural acidic. Often times, the chemicals used to
create todayís industrial products are not properly treated or disposed of. They are
emitted into the air and absorbed into the water molecules in the upper atmosphere, which
condense and fall back down to Earth with devastating effects. Acid rain, and itís
bi-products like Aluminum poisoning, is a problem that must be dealt with on a Global
level.

The problem was first brought to light about 20 years ago when scientists in
Sweden and Norway first believed that acidic rain may be causing great ecological damage
to the planet. The problem was that by the time that the scientist found the problem it was
already very large. Detecting an acid lake is often quite difficult. A lake does not become
acid over night. It happens over a period of many years, or even decades. The changes are
usually to gradual for them to be noticed early.

At the beginning of the 20th century most rivers and lakes like the river Tovdal in
Norway had not yet begun to die. However by 1976 local inspectors were noticing that
many of the lakes were beginning to show signs of death. Fish were found dead along the
banks of many rivers. As the winters ice began to melt off more and more hundreds upon
hundreds more dead fish were being found. As scientists continued to work they found
many piles of dead fish, up to 5000 in one pile, further up the river. Divers were sent in to
examine the bottom of the rivers. where they found many more dead fish. Many live and
dead specimens were taken back to labs across Norway. When the live specimens
were examined they were found to have very little sodium in their blood. This is typical a
typical symptom of acid poisoning. The acid had entered the gills of the fish and poisoned
them so that they were unable to extract salt from the water to maintain their bodies
sodium levels.

By the late 1970s, though, many Norwegian scientists began to suspect that it was
not only the acid in the water that was causing the deaths. They had proved that most fish
could survive in a stream that had up to a 1 unit difference in pH. After many experiments
and research they found that their missing link was aluminum. One of the most common
metals on earth, aluminum is stored in a combined form with other elements in the earth,
where it cannot dissolve into the water and harm the fish and plants. However the acid
from acid rain can easily dissolve the bond between these elements. The Aluminum is then
dissolved into a more soluble state by the acid. In this form it is easily absorbed into the
water. When it comes in contact with fish it causes irritation to the gills. In response the
fish creates a film of mucus in the gills to stop this irritation until the irritant is gone.
However the aluminum does not go away and the fish continues to build up more and
more mucus to counteract it, eventually clogging the gills and suffocating the fish.

Acid lakes are deceivingly beautiful. The are crystal clear and have a luscious
carpet of green algae on the bottom. The reason that these lakes are so clear is because
many of the decomposers are dead. They cannot break down that material such as leaves
and dead animals. These materials eventually sink to the bottom instead of going through
the natural process of decomposition. In acid lakes decomposition is very slow. The whole
metabolism of the lake is slowed down.

Acid rain is a growing problem that must be dealt with. It causes the death of our
lakes, our rivers, our wild life and God forbid a human being. Acid rain also causes other
serious problems such as the release of aluminum and into our water supplies. As of yet
there is little action being taken either in world governments, industrial complexes, or even
the environmental movement to stop acid rain production. Still, the effort is growing, the
problem is being identified, and solutions are being tested and enacted. We can only hope
that the solutions are found before the problem becomes too big to handle. The last thing
this planet needs