Sheriff’s Office



SO2 belongs to the family of sulfur oxide gases (SO2). These gases dissolve easily in water. Sulfur is prevalent in all raw materials, including crude oil, coal, and ore that contains common metals like aluminum, copper, zinc, lead, and iron. SO2 gases are formed when fuel containing sulfur, such as coal and oil, is burned, and when gasoline is extracted from oil, or metals are extracted from ore. SO2 dissolves in water vapor to form acid, and interacts with other gases and particles in the air to form sulfates and other products that can be harmful to people and their environment.

SO2 contributes to respiratory illness, particularly in children and the elderly, and aggravates existing heart and lung diseases.

SO2 contributes to the formation of acid rain, which:

  • damages trees, crops, historic buildings, and monuments; and
  • makes soils, lakes, and streams acidic

SO2 contributes to the formation of atmospheric particles that cause visibility impairment, most noticeably in national parks.

SO2 and the pollutants formed from SO2, such as sulfate particles, can be transported over long distances and deposited far from the point of origin. This means that problems with SO2 are not confined to areas where it is emitted.

High levels of SO2 over a short period, such as a day, can be particularly problematic for people with asthma. EPA encourages communities to learn about the types of industries in their communities and to work with local industrial facilities to address pollution control equipment failures or process upsets that could result in peak levels of SO2.

SO2 causes a wide variety of health and environmental impacts because of the way it reacts with other substances in the air. Particularly sensitive groups include people with asthma who are active outdoors and children, the elderly, and people with heart or lung disease.

Respiratory Effects from Gaseous SO2
Peak levels of SO2 in the air can cause temporary breathing difficulty for people with asthma who are active outdoors. Longer-term exposures to high levels of SO2 gas and particles cause respiratory illness and aggravate existing heart disease.

Respiratory Effects from Sulfate Particles
SO2 reacts with other chemicals in the air to form tiny sulfate particles. When these are breathed, they gather in the lungs and are associated with increased respiratory symptoms and disease, difficulty in breathing, and premature death.

Visability Visibility Impairment
Haze occurs when light is scattered or absorbed by particles and gases in the air. Sulfate particles are the major cause of reduced visibility in many parts of the U.S., including our national parks.
Acidrain Acid Rain
SO2 and nitrogen oxides react with other substances in the air to form acids, which fall to earth as rain, fog, snow, or dry particles. Some may be carried by the wind for hundreds of miles.
Plant Water Plant and Water Damage
Acid rain damages forests and crops, changes the makeup of soil, and makes lakes and streams acidic and unsuitable for fish. Continued exposure over a long time changes the natural variety of plants and animals in an ecosystem.
Aesthetic Aesthetic Damage
SO2 accelerates the decay of building materials and paints, including irreplaceable monuments, statues, and sculptures that are part of our nation's cultural heritage.

Contact Us

Phone: (515)-286-3705
Fax: (515)-286-3437
Operating Hours: 7am - 4:30pm / M-F
5885 NE 14 Street
Des Moines, IA 50313