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Industry & Power Generation

Industry and power generation are main sources of sulphur dioxide emissions, a common air pollutant and the precursor for sulphuric acid in acid rain. In the UK power stations and all other types of industry account for 90% of all sulphur dioxide pollution.

During the Industrial Revolution industries were often located in urban areas. Following the UK Clean Air Acts in the 1950s and 1960s, and with the decline in heavy industry, few large industries and power stations are located in towns and cities today. Many large industries are now located in the more rural areas of the UK. Consequently, sulphur dioxide pollution in urban areas has been significantly reduced. The requirement of industries and power stations to disperse waste gases at elevated levels via a stack or chimney has also helped to reduce ground level concentrations of sulphur dioxide. However, this has significantly expanded the area of pollution dispersal, such that acid deposition is now the main pollution concern attributable to industry and power generation.

Power stations contribute significantly to the total emissions of nitrogen oxides in the UK. In 1999, 21% of nitrogen oxides came from this source and a further 13% from other industries, iron and steel and refineries. The major source of nitrogen oxides pollution in the UK is now road transport (44%). Like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides are also converted into acidic compounds when combined with water in the atmosphere, and contribute to acid rain.