Acid Destruction Of Cultural Materials

Acid rain takes a toll on stone buildings and other structures including those that are culturally significant. Just as limestone and marble buffer acidic water, acid rain dissolves buildings and statues made of these materials. The decreased pH of rain and fog is taking its toll on cultural objects, a phenomenon that has long been recognized. In the same year that he coined the term acid rain (1856), Robert Angus Smith wrote, "It has often been observed that the stones and bricks of buildings, especially under projecting parts, crumble more readily in large towns where coal is burnt . . . I was led to attribute this effect to the slow but constant action of acid rain."

Much of the world's architectural heritage is under siege from acid rain. Affected buildings include Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral in London; the Taj Mahal in India; the Coliseum in Rome; the Acropolis in Greece; Egypt's temples at Karnak; and monuments in Krakow, Poland. In Sweden, medieval stained glass windows are thought to have been damaged by acid rain. In the United States, limestone buildings, such as the U.S. Capitol, show some acid rain damage.

Destruction From Acid Rain

The effects of acid rain on a stone building and statue. (Adam Hart-Davis /Photo Researchers)

In most cases, acid rain does not act alone to diminish the beauty of these buildings.

In limestone buildings, the calcite mineral that makes up the stone reacts with sulfur dioxide pollutants and moisture in the air to form the mineral gypsum. This mineral grows into a network of thin crystals that traps particles of dirt. A dark crust forms on its surface, turning the building black. Since the gypsum crust dissolves in water, it accumulates in sheltered areas protected from rainfall. The result is that much of the detail carved into many old limestone buildings appears black and dirty.

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  • abbie
    What does acid rain effect?
    8 years ago
    How does acid rain affects buildings made of limestone and marble?
    8 years ago
  • natalino sagese
    How does acid rain affect buildings and statues made of limestone and marble?
    8 years ago
  • Maria Reilly
    What acid rain does to status?
    8 years ago
  • haben
    How acid rain affects buildings and statues made of limestone and marble?
    8 years ago
  • Gilly
    How is st pauls cathedral damaged by acid rain?
    8 years ago
  • fabio lombardo
    How is westminster abbey (a church) in london affected by acid rain?
    8 years ago
  • Sanni
    What effect does acid rain have on limestone?
    8 years ago
  • brenda
    How does acid rain affect building and statues made of limestone and marble?
    8 years ago
  • Theodoric
    How does acid rain affect buildings images?
    8 years ago
  • Anna
    Why is limestone damaged by acid rain?
    8 years ago
  • mandy
    What effect does acid rain have on buildings?
    8 years ago
  • nina
    How does acid rain affect the statue of liberty?
    7 years ago
  • ulrich
    What are the effects of air pollutants on buildings including pictures.?
    3 years ago
  • linda
    What is acid rainHow does it affect old monuments?
    3 years ago
  • antje
    How acid rain destruct building made up of marbles?
    12 months ago
  • isembard
    Which buildings were affected by acid rain robert angus smith?
    6 months ago

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