Acid Rain, Other Pollutants Damaging Taj Mahal

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January 25, 2015

Scientists have announced that the "browning" of India's famed mausoleum the Taj Mahal is being caused by pollution, most of it man-made.

The findings, published in the December edition of the online journal Environmental Science & Technology, point to vehicle exhaust, trash burning, brickmaking, and even nearby agriculture practices as creating the carbon dust that has, since the 1970s, turned the ornate white tomb a rusty shade of brown.

Mughal Emperor Shah Janan ordered the Taj Mahal built in the 1600s, in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Thousands of workers toiled for 22 years to complete the ornate white marble mausoleum. It has been a tourist attraction ever since, with current estimates of annual visitors numbering more than 3 million.

The scientists, led by American Mike Bergin, from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Indian Sacchichida Tripathi, from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, reported their findings after the completion of an investigation that involved using electron microscopes to scan polluted pieces of marble. Air samples from the area formed part of the results as well. Both marble and air samples showed strong evidence of black and brown carbon.

The scientists also pointed out that the polution would be affecting the people in and around the monument as well, not just tourists but those who work at the monument and nearby.

Work is already under way to limit further pollution, with site officials restricting vehicular traffic in a wide berth around the mausoleum.

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