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The Effects of Acidic Water

By Venice Kichura ; Updated September 21, 2017

Acidic water refers to acid rain, which is water that has become more acidic than normal. This usually occurs after rain has come in contact with certain oxides such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide. Besides damaging and sometimes killing plants and wildlife, acid rain harms soil and tree roots. It upsets and destroys plants and organisms living in rivers, lakes and streams, besides harming humans and structures.

Effects on Trees

Although acid rain doesn’t kill trees directly, it does weaken them by damaging their leaves. Trees are exposed to poisonous substances which the soil slowly releases. Even if the soil is well buffered, trees can still be damaged by acid rain. Forests located in high mountains frequently are exposed to more acid than other forests as they’re surrounded by acidic fog and clouds that are more acidic than common rainfall. When leaves are continually bathed in this type of acid fog, needed nutrients in the needles and leaves are stripped away, causing a loss of nutrients in their foliage. This makes trees more vulnerable to damage by other factors such as cold weather.

Effects on Plants

Acid rain hurts plants in many of the same ways it damages trees. It makes leaves turn brownish-yellow so they can’t perform photosynthesis properly. Plants are harmed by air pollutants found in ground level ozone. When this occurs food crops are severely affected and as a result there is less agricultural productivity. Some non-woody plants, such as barley, are significantly affected by acid rain.

Effects on Aquatic Environments

Lakes and streams are where acid rain’s ecological effects are most visibly seen. After acid rain has fallen on fields, forest, buildings and roads, it then flows into lakes and streams, falling directly on water habitats. Although some lakes are naturally acidic, most bodies of water are not, having a pH of between 6 and 8, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website. When surrounding soil isn’t able to buffer acid rain enough to neutralize it, lakes and other bodies of water can become acidic. This acidic condition makes the water extremely toxic for many types of aquatic plants. Thus, an entire ecosystem in which plants and animals are interdependent upon one another is affected by acid rain.

Effects on Humans

Humans can become ill from the effects of acid rain. For example, acid rain can damage the air that humans breathe, causing respiratory problems such as asthma. People can get sick eating food coming from plants grown in contaminated soil. Also, humans can become ill eating meat from an animal affected with toxins from acid rain. .

Structural Effects

Acid rain also affects architectural structures, causing buildings to corrode from leftover deposits of acid. In fact, famous sculptures such as the Statue of Liberty have been affected, according to the Statue of Liberty website.Acid rain causes highways, roads and bridges to weaken and corrode, creating an enormous safety hazard. This all causes a huge expense as considerable tax money is needed to fix these structural problems.