When you continue to add to your toxic load and neglect to provide your body with what it requires to remain in a state of homeostasis, you will eventually become ill. The same holds true for planet Earth. When industrial pollution disrupts the harmony and balance of nature, there are consequences!
I’m sure you have all heard of the resulting damage acid rain can inflict on the environment. All living organisms require water and a certain pH to thrive. As you have learned, pure water has a neutral pH of 7. Most scientists agree that normal clean rainwater has a somewhat acidic pH of about 5.7-6 as carbon dioxide dissolves in rain to form weak carbonic acid. However, rainwater that registers less than 5.7 is considered harmful acid rain. When rain pH descends this low it means that the water reacted with not just carbon dioxide, but with sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide as well. This level of acid is enough to jeopardize both plants and animals in the water and on the land.
So, what causes acid rain to precipitate?
Just like the human body can accumulate nitric and sulfuric acid waste so can the rainwater. Sulfuric acid is naturally produced from biological decay and volcanic activity which accounts for smaller amounts. However, 80% of the sulfur dioxide (SO2), which forms when sulfur reacts with oxygen in the air, is generated by sulfur-containing fossil fuels like coals and oils from power plants. Sulfur dioxide, like the oxides of carbon and nitrogen, reacts with water to form sulfuric acid. The effects of fossil fuel burning can be drastic. In an unpolluted atmosphere SO2 concentration registers from 0 to 0.01 ppm, but polluted urban air can contain 0.1 to 2 ppm of SO2, which is up to 200 times more SO2! The rest of the acid rain comes from nitric acid as a result of high-temperature air combustion, like from car engines and power plants, as well as synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. Nitric oxides are also released in fairly large quantities from animal waste and farms through manure application.
When fossil fuels are burned, acid-forming nitrogen and sulfur oxides are produced and released into the earth’s atmosphere. These compounds can navigate thousands of miles from where they propagated, materializing as acid rain on distant land and water surfaces. For example, acidic waste from power plant facilities in New Jersey, Ohio or Michigan can impact forests, rivers or lakes in less populated and less industrialized sections of New Hampshire or Maine.
The areas affected by the greatest degree of acidity in the US are generally located in the Northeast. This is mostly the result of a tightly packed population, and the higher concentration of industrial and power plants. Due to the lack of limestone in the soil, even parts of the northwestern and southeastern US are subject to the damaging effects of acid rain. In the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada, annual precipitation acid rain pH ranges from 4.3 in Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio, to 4.8 in Maine and maritime Canada. http://water.usgs.gov/edu/acidrain.html – see chart
Eventually this toxic waste produced rain water falls right back down on our heads affecting human, plant, and animal life. What goes up must come down!
- Acid rain slowly eats away at the leaves of trees and crops, dissolving vital minerals and other nutrients from the soil that it needs to survive.
- The acids damage the leaves waxy protective layer, disrupting their ability to photosynthesize normally. Eventually these plants succumb to a gradual demise, as its roots are eventually poisoned.
- When acid rain drops on field soil it can kill off beneficial bacteria and leach minerals like calcium, leading to infertile nutrient deficient soils. This in turn impedes plant germination and reproduction.
- Just like toxic metals are more absorbable to humans when pH levels are imbalanced, acid rain can increase the uptake of toxic elements like aluminum in the plants. Toxic metals like aluminum and mercury wind up contaminating crops, as well as drinking water, and fish, which are then consumed by animals and humans as it passes down the food chain.
- As our soils become poisoned, so do our bodies become poisoned. As we weaken and demineralize our soils, our bodies become weakened and demineralized as well!
Acid rain threatens our oceans and other aquatic ecosystems:
Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the worldwide average pH of the ocean has decreased by 0.11. This equates to a near 30% INCREASE in acidity or hydrogen ions (H+), with most of the damage occurring over the last 200 years. Scientists say that on a geological scale this change is advancing more than any change documented over the last 300 million years. As our overall carbon footprint deepens, and more CO2 is deposited into the surface ocean, biodiversity will diminish and many aquatic life forms will struggle to adapt and survive. This threatens the food supply for coastal inhabitants and worldwide!
The reality of the dilemma is evident as shelled organisms like coral reefs are starting to disintegrate and new shells are not able to form. This will continue to happen as carbonate ions are needed as a buffer to stabilize ocean water pH. The earth’s precious oceans are said to neutralize up to 30 percent of CO2 emissions created by humans. Basically, carbon dioxide is dissolving into the waters at such a rapid pace that the oceans buffering systems have not been able to keep up, just like human buffer systems fail with poor diet and lifestyle choices. Most unfortunately, scientists approximate that one third of the oceans acid buffering capability has already been depleted.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes that the effects of acid rain are most apparent in aquatic ecosystems. Acid rain mixes in with the water runoff from forests and roads and makes its way into streams, lakes, rivers, and marshes, besides the acid rain that directly falls into these waters. Here are some interesting, but startling facts:
- Most lakes and streams have a pH between 6 and 8. As of 2012, the National Surface Water Survey investigated over 1000 lakes over 10 acres and thousands of miles of streams and reported that acid rain caused 75 percent of acidic lakes and 50 percent of acidic streams.
- Some water sources in the northeastern US where soil buffering capacity is low have reported pH levels less than 5. Little Echo Pond in Franklin, NY is found to be one of the most acidic lakes with a pH of 4.2.
- Somewhere in the neighborhood of 580 of the streams in the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain are acidic from acid rain
- More than 90 percent of the streams in the New Jersey Pine Barrens are overly acidic, making them the highest rate of acidic streams in the whole nation.
- Over 1,350 of the streams in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands (mid-Appalachia) are acidic.
According to the EPA “Acid rain causes a cascade of effects that harm or kill individual fish, reduce fish population numbers, completely eliminate fish species from a water-body, and decrease biodiversity. As acid rain flows through soils in a watershed, aluminum is released from soils into the lakes and streams located in that watershed. So, as pH in a lake or stream decreases, aluminum levels increase. Both low pH and increased aluminum levels are directly toxic to fish. In addition, low pH and increased aluminum levels cause chronic stress that may not kill individual fish, but leads to lower body weight and smaller size and makes fish less able to compete for food and habitat.
Some types of plants and animals are able to tolerate acidic waters. Others, however, are acid-sensitive and will be lost as the pH declines. Generally, the young of most species are more sensitive to environmental conditions than adults. At pH 5, most fish eggs cannot hatch. At lower pH levels, some adult fish die. Some acid lakes have no fish. As lakes and streams become more acidic, the numbers and types of fish and other aquatic plants and animals that live in these waters decrease.”
The human body is no different. Just like acid rain extracts calcium carbonates from the ocean, an overly acidic environment in the body depletes emergency mineral stores needed by the body to buffer excessive metabolic acids. As the body becomes more acidic and inflamed from environmental toxicity in conjunction with poor diet and lifestyle choices, your skeleton and muscle tissue will dissolve to buffer the excessive acidity to preserve fluid pH and keep you alive.
Similar to the damaging effects a mere decrease in pH of 0.1 can make to the surface ocean quality, when blood pH is consistently 0.1 lower it can have DRASTIC consequences over time! A decrease of 0.1 in blood pH results in significantly less oxygen available in the blood, and tissue pH can drop considerably less. Cancer and most other conditions thrive in oxygen deprived environments, so 0.1 may as well be a billion as far as potential impact on your overall health and wellness!