Sulfur dioxide

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This is a colorless gas consisting of a single sulfur atom and two oxygen atoms. Sulfur dioxide is a major primary pollutant in the atmosphere originating mostly from coal fired power plants and other fossil fuels combustion. In the atmosphere, sulfur dioxide is usually oxidized by ozone and hydrogen peroxide to form sulfur trioxide, a secondary pollutant. Sulfur trioxide, similar to sulfur dioxide, is extremely soluble in water. If these sulfur oxides are present in the atmosphere when condensation occurs, droplets of sulfuric acid (acid rain) are formed. Volcanic eruptions provide a natural source of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere. However the real problem associated with the production of sulfuric acid in the atmosphere is not with the sulfur dioxide expelled by volcanoes. Anthropogenic production of sulfur dioxide, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, is largely responsible for damage caused by acid rain.

[Science; v265; 497-9; 1994.] [Nature; v366; 327-9; 1993.]

Source: Atmospheric Chemistry Glossary

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