Current scientific evidence links short-term exposures to Sulfur Dioxide, ranging from 5 minutes to 24 hours, with an array of adverse respiratory effects including bronchoconstriction and increased asthma symptoms. These effects are particularly important for asthmatics at elevated ventilation rates (e.g., while exercising or playing.)
Studies also show a connection between short-term exposure and increased visits to emergency departments and hospital admissions for respiratory illnesses, particularly in at-risk populations including children, the elderly, and asthmatics.
Sulfur dioxide is the leading contributor to acid precipitation that can harm water bodies, fish and amphibian populations and forests across the Upper Midwest, Northeast and Canada. Acid rain also impacts portions of the Rocky Mountains and other areas.
Sulfuric gases and particles can slowly degrade building materials such as brick and mortar, pipes and metal surfaces, paints, stone and monuments. Airborne sulfates, along with particulate and nitrogen oxides, also contribute to visibility loss or haze. In Iowa, visibility loss due to sulfates and other airborne particles may be approximately one-third natural visibility on average days and less on the worst days. In other areas of the nation, such as national parks, air pollution has cut visibility in these scenic, "pristine" areas by 80 percent on the worst days. Generally, visibility is worst in the eastern states and improves in western states, although visibility is degraded nationally.
When sulfur-containing fuels such as gasoline, coal and fuel oil are burned, the sulfur is released. Citizens can help reduce emissions by conserving electricity, properly maintaining vehicles, driving less and by consolidating errands.