Pollution caused by cars, heating, and industry is one of the primary contributors to the deterioration of cultural heritage. This was highlighted in a report by Enea, which demonstrated the harmful effects of key air pollutants (nitrogen oxides and PM10 particles) on three UNESCO heritage sites: the Royal Palace of Caserta, the Cathedral of Saint Domnius in Split (Croatia), and the Residence of Wurzburg (Germany).

“The Royal Palace of Caserta is experiencing the greatest damage, where we have calculated a corrosion rate of surfaces exceeding the target value set for 2050 (6.4 microns per year). This value should not be exceeded if we want to preserve the health of the historic royal residence, which attracts 700,000 visitors every year,” explains Teresa La Torretta, a researcher at the Enea Laboratory for Air Pollution, and co-author of the report along with her colleague Pasquale Spezzano.

The air pollution measurement station near the Royal Palace of Caserta has shown high and constant levels of nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter (PM10), remaining just above 20 micrograms per cubic meter.

“The Royal Palace is located in the heart of the city and is therefore particularly exposed to air pollution from industry, heating, and road transport. Although there are natural sources outside the city, such as marine aerosol and Sahara sand, causing an increase in PM10 particulate matter, especially in southern Europe,” adds La Torretta. Comparing the health status of the three UNESCO sites examined, Wurzburg and Split show degradation rates of external surfaces below the ‘safety threshold.’

An important factor in determining the differences between the three sites is the local weather-climatic conditions (temperature, rainfall, relative humidity), which play a role in enhancing the aggressiveness of pollutants and, consequently, increasing the corrosion of stone surfaces.

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