Acid Rain And Human Health

The infamous London Smog of 1952 developed as a result of meteorological conditions which allowed the build-up of pollutants within the urban atmosphere. Smoke, produced by domestic fires, power stations and coal-burning industries, was the most obvious pollutant, but the most dangerous was sulphuric acid, floating free in aerosol form or attached to the smoke particles (Williamson 1973). Drawn deep into the lungs, the sulphuric acid caused or aggravated breathing problems, and many of the 4,000 deaths attributed to the smog were brought about by the effect of sulphuric acid on the human respiratory system (Bach 1972). Although the Clean Air Acts of the 1960s and 1970s, along with such developments as the tall stacks policy, reduced the amount of sulphur compounds in urban air, recent studies in Ontario and Pennsylvania have indicated that elevated atmospheric acidity continues to cause chronic respiratory problems in these areas (Lippmann 1986).

The acid rain which causes respiratory problems is in a dry gaseous or aerosol form, and mainly of local origin. It is therefore quite different from the far-travelled wet deposition that has caused major problems in the natural environment. There is, as yet, no evidence that wet deposition is directly damaging to human health, but, because of its ability to mobilize metals, it may have important indirect effects (Park 1987). For example, in Norway the intake of aluminium in acidified water has been linked to chronic renal failure (Abrahamsen et al. 1989). Heavy metals such as copper, cadmium, zinc and mercury, liberated from soil and bedrock by acid rain, may eventually reach the human body via plants and animals in the food chain or through drinking water supplies. The corrosion of storage tanks and distribution pipes by acidified water can also add metals to drinking water: the liberation of lead from lead piping or from solder on copper piping is a particular concern. Although quality control in water treatment plants can deal with such problems (Ontario: Ministry of the Environment 1980), many areas subject to acid rain depend upon wells, springs and lakes, which provide an untreated water supply. This may expose users to elevated levels of such metals as lead and copper and although individual doses in all of these situations would be small, regular consumption might allow the metals to accumulate to toxic levels.

The Basic Survival Guide

The Basic Survival Guide

Disasters: Why No ones Really 100 Safe. This is common knowledgethat disaster is everywhere. Its in the streets, its inside your campuses, and it can even be found inside your home. The question is not whether we are safe because no one is really THAT secure anymore but whether we can do something to lessen the odds of ever becoming a victim.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment