Air Quality and Health and Welfare

2.5 Nitrogen Oxides

2.5.3 Acid Deposition
Acid deposition, or acid rain as it is commonly known, occurs when SO2 and NOx react in the atmosphere with water, oxygen, and oxidants to form various acidic compounds that later fall to earth in the form of precipitation or dry deposition of acidic particles (“Human Health Benefits from Sulfate Reductions,” 1995). It contributes to damage of trees at high elevations and in extreme cases may cause lakes and streams to become so acidic that they cannot support aquatic life. In addition, acid deposition accelerates the decay of building materials and paints, including irreplaceable buildings, statues, and sculptures that are part of our nation's cultural heritage.

Acid deposition primarily affects bodies of water that rest atop soil with a limited ability to neutralize acidic compounds. The National Surface Water Survey (NSWS) investigated the effects of acidic deposition in over 1,000 lakes larger than 10 acres and in thousands of miles of streams. It found that acid deposition was the primary cause of acidity in 75 percent of the acidic lakes and about 50 percent of the acidic streams Acid deposition also has been implicated in contributing to degradation of high-elevation spruce forests that populate the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains from Maine to Georgia. This area includes national parks such as the Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountain National Parks.