Stronger together: On increased air-pollution awareness and improved quality of life

The good news is: not all news is bad. To help lend credence, the quality of air here at home, has, in recent times in many a situation, markedly improved.

The case of acid rain

To put the matter in context, poor air quality in our major commerce centers didn’t just crop up on its own. Something else you should know if you don’t already. Whereas activity connected to manufacturing and industry (steel-making and ship-building immediately come to mind) was once responsible for the bulk of pollution in our urban air in many a metropolis, much of this can now be attributed to activities mostly having to do with travel and transport.

That said pollution in air can still be cleaned. It’s time to take a look at acid rain.

One can find a good explanation on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Web site here.

Acid rain or more correctly, atmospheric acid deposition, can be created in the air in both wet and dry forms, according to the EPA. It is created from the mixing in the atmosphere of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) released as emissions from industry, energy, transportation, among other sources.

When combined with water and oxygen, a reaction in the air takes place with the NOx and SO2 causing the formation of nitric and sulfuric acids, respectively. Before falling to the ground, these acids mix with water and additional substances. The acid once hitting the Earth can be damaging to soils, forests, rivers and other bodies of water, according to EPA. Winds can carry such substances miles from where the initial NOx and SO2 are released.

If there is one thing to take away from this it is that in 1980, the United States Congress enacted what is called the “Acid Deposition Act.” An assessment and research program was established and over a period of a dozen-and-a-half years, comprehensive scientific analyses of the problem were conducted. Ultimately, in 1990, in relation to several amendments to the Clean Air Act being passed by Congress, Title IV was created under which a cap-and-trade system was established, the purpose of which was to reduce emissions of both NOx and SO2. Since the passage of Title IV, SO2 emissions levels in the U.S. have dropped precipitously by 40 percent while, from 1976 levels, the amount of acid rain has declined 65 percent, all according to information posted on Wikipedia.

Problem recognition + willingness to address = favorable results

Not to be lost sight of is the notion that through problem recognition and a willingness on the part of many to address the environmental havoc that acid rain has wrought, in response, steps were taken and positive strides were made in terms of significantly lessening acid rain’s effect.

Which just goes to show that through public awareness of polluted air, effective and lasting results can be had, the latter of course, part and parcel of and essential to maintaining good quality of life.

Oh, and on Wikipedia also, it was pointed out that it wasn’t until the 1970s, subsequent to related published reports in the New York Times that there was a rise in U.S. public awareness of acid rain.

Much good obviously came of this.

Image above: Wikimedia Commons

This post was last revised on Dec. 14, 2020 @ 6:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

– Alan Kandel