Natural and Man-Made Causes Of Acid Rain

In 1856, scientist Robert Angus Smith stated the following: ” It has been observed that the stones and bricks of buildings, especially under projecting parts, crumble more readily in large towns where coal is burnt, I was led to attribute this effect to the slow but constant action of acid rain.” This astute observation, and later work on the subject, earned Smith the title of “Father of Acid Rain.”

Acid rain was first brought to public attention when 17th century diarist John Evelyn noticed the degradation of the famous Arundel Towers in Southhampton. Consequently, Evelyn is the the same man who was credited with referring to the atmosphere of London as a “Hellish and dismall cloud of sea-coale.” The phenomena is attributed to air pollution, principally from sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, both of which come largely from fossil fuels like coal and oil. Considering this, it is not surprising to learn that the emissions of both have increased since the Industrial Revolution.

Sulfate and Nitrate Sources In the Atmosphere

Natural Sources
Sulfate in the atmosphere comes largely from volcanic emissions, ocean spray, and readily oxidized hydrogen sulfide released from decomposing organic materials in the earth. Nitrate or nitrogen sources include NOx, made by lightening during thunderstorms, organisms in soil, and forest fires. Scientists believe that these natural sources are responsible for one third of the nitrogen and sulfur emissions in the US.

Human Activity
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that that the major contributors to acid rain are SO2 and NOx, which result from the burning of oil, coal, natural gas, and other fossil fuels. The agency notes that about 70% of SO2 emissions produced in 2006 were caused by fuel combustion by electric utilities using fossil fuel. Fossil fueled industrial facilities contributed 13% to the number. Other, lesser sources were transportation vehicles and industrial processes; highway vehicles being the primary source of NOx emissions, accounting for 36% of the 2006 total. Another 22% was added by off-highway vehicles, like bulldozers, while power plants accounted for 20% of the total.

Effects on the Environment

  • Acid rain lowers pH levels in the water which kills fish, their eggs, and fish food organisms.
  • Acid rain changes soil chemistry, causing soil to lose nutrients like magnesium. potassium, and calcium because it becomes too concentrated with dissolved inorganic aluminum.
  • Acid rain harms trees by robbing the foliage of calcium and lowering their tolerance to stress.
  • Particulates (small pollutant particles) related to acid ran can travel long distances and penetrate deep into lungs. This can leads to the development of bronchitis and asthma in children and is believed to be the cause of major health risks in people over 65 and pregnant women.

Addressing Acid Rain
In 2005, the EPA issued the Clean Air Interstate rule to limit transport of air pollutants along state lines. It is expected to reduce the emission of SO2 by more than 70% and emission of NOx by more than 70%. Analyses of a Gallup poll shows a decline in public concern about acid rain in the late 1980’s. By 2007, only 25% go people polled expressed a great deal of concern abut acid rain, and 20% expressed no concern at all.

What do you think needs to be done about acid rain? Let us know what you think and tell us what we can do on our part to help combat this problem affecting the quality of our lives.

Woman holding organic foods

Make the Switch To Organic Foods

What does it mean to “go organic?” Is it the environmental equivalent of buying Christian Louboutins? Does it mean meeting friends for organic Suncrust Pizza at the LYFE cafe followed up by a trip to Dunkin’ Donuts? Making the switch to organic foods is not a trend, its a commitment. It means being diligent about shopping practices, and may even require some economical sacrifices. However, it also means taking steps toward a chemical free environment. If you’re considering making the switch, here are some things you need to be prepared to do.

Make Room In the Fridge
Since organic produce typically does not last as long as inorganic, you’ll have to inspect your refrigerator and food storage areas to make sure you have room to store it. Clean out rotten produce to make room for your newer, healthier items.. Consider stocking up on frozen organic versions if frequent trips to the market are inconvenient.

Make a List
Make a list of items that you are running low on and gradually replace them with organic versions. This will cut down on waste and stretch out your finances while you are making the transition.

Organic Produce Shopping
Thin skinned produce or produce without peels have the least protection against pesticides. When switching to organics, berries, celery, apples, bell peppers, peaches, greens, and potatoes should be your first priority. Thicker skinned produce, such as avocados, pineapples, melons, and mangoes pose less of a health risk, and can be held off on, if you need to make the transition slowly.

Shopping for organic food

Organic Dairy
Switching to organics will also mean converting to organic milk and dairy products to avoid antibiotics and pesticides. Although there may be a significant price difference, keep in mind that the switch will help to support and more natural agricultural system.

Meat and Eggs
If meat and eggs are dietary staples for you, you will want to purchase hormone free and organic forms of these proteins. Organic meat will probably be the most costly of all your switches. You may want to accompany this swap with the purchase of few organic flavorings, seasonings, and condiments, to keep your transition tasty.

Read Labels
Look for the “USDA organic” certification on the label of your food to make sure the Department of Agriculture has deemed it free of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and that no ionizing radiation was used in the processing of the food. “100% organic” indicates all ingredients are organic, whereas simply “organic” means 95 % organic, and “Made with Organic Ingredients” means that 70 % of the ingredients were not genetically modified.

Shop Around
Go to different grocery stores to find the best prices and selections of organic food. Your regular grocery store probably has an organic food aisle, and you may be able to find organic foods place next to the nonorganic. Health food stores, membership stores, and farmer’s markets can be good organic food sources and you can always consider starting your own garden, if you are so inclined.

Eating out

Eating Out
Do your research when it comes to restaurants. Some restaurants may claim a dish is organic, but key uses seasonings, oils, and other components that may not be. Specialty restaurants are generally most reliable.

What do you think? Are you prepared to take the steps for a healthy environment and a healthy you? Let us know!

Office with plant

Improve Your Health With A Nice Office Plant

If you have seen “Little Shop Of Horrors” you may not be so enthusiastic about the idea of owning a plant. After all, the idea of a human blood- sucking Venus Flytrap with a mind of its own is not exactly the most encouraging image for the novice horticulturist. However, if you are not yet scarred for life by the image of your small table plant coming to life and crooning, “Feed me Seymour” in a funky baritone, you may not be completely adverse to the idea of becoming a parent to a beautiful bouncing office plant. And, if so, you may be among the fortunate individuals that can reap the health benefits of having such a plant on your office desk. Here are some of the reasons you should make your workplace a little greener.

Plants Improve Air Quality
Studies have shown plants can play an important role in improving indoor air quality. In 1973, environmental scientists found the swamp plants could actually eliminate Agent Orange from water samples and volatile organic compounds from the air. Additional research suggests that people recover from illnesses faster when surrounded by greenery.Plants Reduce Stress

Plants Reduce Stress
A State University Study at Surrey University in the UK confirmed beliefs that office plants can reduce stress. Participants in the study were asked to take a difficult exam. Half the participants did so in a plant-filled room, while the other half did not. Measurements taken afterward proved that the presence of plants eased stress for participants and that subjects recovered more quickly from stress in a plant-filled environment.

Woman holding plant

Plants Increase Productivity
With the reduction of stress comes the increase of productivity, research has found. A study published in the “Journal of Environmental Horticulture asked a group of workers to perform a simple task on a computer in a room filled with plants, while another group was asked to perform the same task in a plant- less room. Results showed a 12% increase in productivity in the workers who accomplished the task in the presence of plants. These workers also reported feeling 10% more attentive after completing the task than those tested without the horticulture.

Plants Make A Room More Comfortable
Although a thirty to sixty percent humidity is the range recommended for human health and comfort, many offices come up short of these numbers, especially during the winter and summer. Low humidity can lead to conditions increasing fatigue and respiratory discomfort. Findings by Washington Star University show that humidity rises significantly when plants are added to the environment, with one study demonstrating plants’ abilities to bring a room to the ideal range of comfort.

Plants Make You More Aware of the Environment
There’s nothing like a plant on your desk to keep you thinking about your eco-consciousness. Tending to a plant every day is a great reminder of how important it is to care about the earth. Let the shrubbery turn your thoughts to how you can add a few more eco-conscious habits to your workday, such as reducing paper and employing reusable products.

How has a plant added to your earth friendliness? Let us know why you keep a plant in your office for your mental and physical health.