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Acid precipitation effects on steel structures

Updated July 20, 2017

Acid precipitation, better known as acid rain, forms when water, oxygen and other chemicals falling in the air mix with carbon dioxide, monoxide and other natural gases that exist in the atmosphere. The combination then forms acid rain. Acid rain damages trees, plants and even steel structures. Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere by burning coal, oil and natural gas. Carbon monoxide is sent into the air by burning gasoline and wood.

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Causes of Acid Rain

Acid precipitation normally falls where there is a high pollution of air: volcanoes, power plants, etc. It can also be found in areas that have many cars, electric utilities and any other sources that burn fuel. Carbon steel is very susceptible to acid precipitation. When the acidic precipitation lands on buildings and other steel structures, it forms crystals that break off pieces of the structure and corrosion begins. It causes buildings to corrode from leftover precipitation particles on the steel.

Silver Bridge Collapse

Bridges are some of the biggest steel structures in the world that are affected by acid rain. In 1967, the Silver Bridge that crossed over the Ohio River collapsed and killed about 46 people. After investigation, the cause of the collapse was said to be faulty equipment and corrosion due to acid rain. The Silver Bridge was constructed with newly made carbon steel because it would enable the bridge to support a lot of weight. Bridges need normal maintenance because they can get rusted from the exposure of saltwater and acid rain. Acid rain caused the Silver Bridge to rust and corrode.

Steel Structured Buildings

Steel buildings become corroded from the leftover acid precipitation. Many steel buildings also lose their strength and become weaker from the effects of acid rain. After years of acid precipitation, buildings are dissolving from the effects of acid. Metals are being affected by the rain, but steel structures are suffering much more. Building steel structures take a long period of time to finish, and the downside is that they are easily harmed by nature's elements such as acid rain. Therefore, the economy is burdened with having to use a lot of money to keep steel structures maintained.

Automotive Effects

In some cases, metal and steel are used interchangeably. Acid rain causes metal to rust and corrode. Some everyday sources of transportation that are affected by acid rain are trains, buses and cars. Each means of transportation face the possibility of rust and corrosion. Each travelling resource is composed of metal, iron and steel objects that make them steel structures and makes them easily immersed in rust. The colours of cars will alter because of acid rain. A car that is dark blue could easily fade in colour because of acid precipitation.

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About the Author

Nicholas Waugh entered journalism in 2006. He has written for collegiate publications "The Drum Newsletter" and "Cultural Expressions Newsletter," as well as Bleacher Report. Waugh holds a Bachelor of Arts in broadcast journalism from Penn State University.

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