Every year, industry releases millions of tons of toxic substances into the air. Lead, carbon, monoxide lung irritating ozone from car fumes, deadly vapours from landfills, all form part of the air that people breathe today. Among other airborne pollutants pumped into the air are sulphur dioxides and nitrogen oxides. Moisture in the atmosphere combines these gases in a chemical reactions to form diluted acids. Their concentration is particularly high in countries whose power plants depend largely on fossil fuels, and low-quality brown coal in particular. Acidic clouds, which do not respect political borders, can affect waterways, vegetation and buildings thousands of miles away from the industrail complexes that created them. Increases acidity is present even in the Arctic snow.
Nitric and sulphuric acid coming down in rain, snow and fog are said to be responsible for a wide variety of harmful effects such as dead lakes, decimated forests, lifeless soil, deteriorating statuary and architecture and aggravated respiratory conditions in people. In the worst hit areas ( mainly large cities) the contamination is so serious that there are no fish in the acidified lakes, and trees permanently lose their foliage.
Not much can be done without changing the entire system of energy production. Treating the fuel before it is burned or cleaning the smoke are very costly processes, considering the scale of emissions. But the situation is becoming intolerableand, whatever the consequences, man must stop upsetting the delicate balance of the ecological system.