Stop Acid Rain Campaign

Submitted by Sue Milburn-Hopwood

Acid rain is the common name for when emissions of sulphur and nitrogen compounds are transported long distances in the atmosphere, transformed by chemical processes and then precipitated back to earth in either rain or snow. Acid then enters the environment and can have harmful effects on sensitive lakes, rivers and soil, fish and fish habitat, waterfowl, trees and buildings.

In the 1980s, addressing acid rain was a top priority for Environment Canada. The “Stop Acid Rain” buttons were part of a major campaign led by Environment Canada to reduce air pollution. Studies found that parts of the Canadian Shield in Eastern Canada were particularly sensitive to acidification. In 1985, the federal and provincial governments from Manitoba eastward agreed to reduce emissions that caused acid rain. To address transboundary contributions to the problem, Canada and the US signed the Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement in 1991. Both countries agreed to reduce emissions, work together on acid rain related issues, and collaborate on scientific and technical initiatives.

“ Stop Acid Rain” campaign buttons
“Stop Acid Rain” campaign buttons

Acid rain was a coming of age issue for the department. It drew upon the efforts of scientists in the Atmospheric Environment Service, Inland Waters Directorate, Lands Directorate and Canadian Wildlife Service, regulators from the Environmental Protection Service, and experts in international affairs and public communications. The work was the basis for future bilateral and multilateral agreements to address other air pollution issues such as ground level ozone, persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals.

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