Effects of acid rain on human health and selected ecosystems and anticipated recovery benefits

Human health and ecosystem

Effects

Recovery benefits

Human health

Surface waters

Forests

Materials

Visibility

In the atmosphere, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides become sulfate and nitrate aerosols, which increase morbidity and mortality from lung disorders, such as asthma and bronchitis, and impacts to the cardiovascular system.

Acidic surface waters decrease the survivability of animal life in lakes and streams and in the more severe instances eliminate some or all types of fish and other organisms.

Acid deposition contributes to forest degradation by impairing trees' growth and increasing their susceptibility to winter injury, insect infestation, and drought. It also causes leaching and depletion of natural nutrients in forest soil.

Acid deposition contributes to the corrosion and deterioration of buildings, cultural objects, and cars, which decreases their value and increases costs of correcting and repairing damage.

In the atmosphere, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides form sulfate and nitrate particles, which impair visibility and affect the enjoyment of national parks and other scenic views.

Decrease emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and deaths.

Reduce the acidic levels of surface waters and restore animal life to the more severely damaged lakes and streams.

Reduce stress on trees, thereby reducing the effects of winter injury, insect infestation, and drought, and reduce the leaching of soil nutrients, thereby improving overall forest health.

Reduce the damage to buildings, cultural objects, and cars, and reduce the costs of correcting and repairing future damage.

Extend the distance and increase the clarity at which scenery can be viewed, thus reducing limited and hazy scenes and increasing the enjoyment of national parks and other vistas.

source: "Appendix I. Effect of Acid Rain on Human Health and Selected Ecosystems and Anticipated Recovery Benefits," in Acid Rain: Emissions Trends and Effects in the Eastern United States, U.S. General Accounting Office, Washington, DC, March 2000

TABLE 5.2

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