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Monuments at risk: European city sites are being damaged by pollution, rain

A new study by Italian researchers has found that smog is wearing down many of Rome's most famous monuments. And in Paris, the Eiffel Tower is now being used to monitor air quality. NewsHour's Chistopher Booker reports.

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  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    A new study by Italy's Institute for Environmental Protection Research and the Superior Institute for Conservation and Restoration is offering proof that ancient Rome is feeling the effects of modern pollution.

    This statue of the Emperor Trajan is turning black, as are fountains, like Bernini's famous Four Rivers in Piazza Navonna.

    These are just two of 3,600 monuments at risk, according to the researchers who've been tracking erosion, corrosion and color change on the city's sites for 15 years.

  • ANNAMARIA GIOVAGNOLI, SUPERIOR INSTITUTE FOR CONSERVATION AND RESTORATION:

    The condition of a monument is a very important variable when it comes to damage: a monument whose material is fragile, because it's been weakened over the time, will be a lot more vulnerable than a monument that's much better preserved."

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    Rome's smog presents preservationists with a difficult choice. The dust on statutes and monuments, while corrosive, can serve as a protective layer against air pollution.

    Nine hundred miles west across the continent, France's most famous landmark is helping track pollution in Paris.

    This sensor mounted on the Eiffel Tower monitor's the city's air quality.

  • PIERRE EMMANUEL BURG, AIRPARIF COMMUNICATION ENGINEER:

    The monitoring stations we have on the Eiffel Tower allow us to better understand the air pollution dispersion from up here but also to give us a day's levels from such a height which will be different to other stations on the ground around Paris.

  • CHRISTOPHER BOOKER:

    Much of Paris' pollution comes from automobiles. While France has worked to limit emissions, the country's relatively high volume of diesel cars that emit nitrogen dioxide make the problem harder to solve.

    On occasion, the city has lowered speed limits to reduce car emissions and air pollution and studied how this affects air quality.

    The height of the Eiffel Tower monitors help researchers understand how pollution is dispersed as it goes higher into the air.

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