Will being exposed to acid rain harm you? Probably not, unless you stand out in the rain a lot. But, the paint on your car can be damaged by acid rain. Your plants may be damaged.
The problem is not the rain that is the problem. It is the sulfur and nitrogen compounds that float suspended in the air you breathe. Acid rain may even harm you if you have pre-existing heart or lung problems. It could, for example, aggravate asthma. Furthermore, nitrous oxides react to form ozone, and ozone can irritate the lungs.
One sometimes noticeable effect of the sulfur and nitrogen compounds in the air is that they cut down on visibility. You can't see as far as you would on a clear day. Acid rain eats away at the surface of buildings, especially those made of limestone or marble. Acid rain also affects the acidity of ponds, lakes, and rivers, causing their pH to drop. Some fish, such as bass and trout, are sensitive to changes in pH.
Plant life is also damaged by acid rain. Crops, forests, and other plants grow more slowly.
We could stop burning so much fossil fuel. We can use more gas-efficient vehicles. We can use less electricity (most of which is produced by fossil-fuel burning power plants). We can promote the use of alternate energy forms where that is practical. In water environments, such as ponds, we can add basic compounds, such as lime, which neutralizes acid.
China has a very serious acid rain problem, because they burn so much coal. Coal contributes to over 90% of the air pollution in China. The Chinese government is now requiring companies to install equipment to remove sulfur from their smokestacks or use other fuels. Household consumers are being urged to switch to cleaner energy sources, such as natural gas or electricity.
You can measure the pH of rain water by using chemically treated "dip sticks," such as those used to measure pH in spas and swimming pools.
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