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Environmental Protection Agency

Acid rain, a byproduct of the large-scale burning of sulfates and nitrates, has been an observed phenomenon since the very earliest years of the industrial revolution in 1872, when English scientist Robert Angus Smith wrote of its corrosive effect on buildings and plants. As large amounts of these chemicals are released into the atmosphere through such processes as the burning of coal, they become bonded with water vapor held in clouds and are subsequently released to the Earth in the form of highly acidic rainfalls. While acid rain only causes indirect damage to living human beings, primarily through its reactions with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) to form ground-level Ozone (smog), it causes tremendous damage to soil fertility, aquatic life, and durable inorganic materials such as stone and metals. Some of the greatest measurable effects of acid rain can be observed on human constructions, particularly old buildings with facades built of corrosion-prone metals such as copper and porous stone such as limestone. 

Unfortunately, buildings and monuments at most of the world’s most important heritage places were not built to withstand such toxic punishment, and as many of these great sites are located in or near burgeoning industrial cities, they have sustained considerable damage. In our modern global economy, as developing countries such as China and India become increasingly industrialized without implementing the stringent pollution controls mostly adopted decades ago by older industrialized nations, many of their greatest cultural treasures are at risk from their own runaway national economic success. These hazards are not, however, limited in any sense to the rapidly-industrializing world; countries such as Australia have also experienced terrible conflicts between cultural preservation and industrial concerns, while the chemical-laden clouds themselves know no borders and have the potential to float over a large area.