The Effects of Air Pollution on Buildings

air pollution image by Kostyantyn Ivanyshen from

Smog, coal dust and other chemicals in the air have deleterious effects on people, plants and animals, and these chemical pollutants also have effects on our buildings and structures as well.

Whether it was during the Industrial Revolution or during the latest round of manufacturing on the lakeshore, pollution effects everything.


Air pollution most noticeably affects buildings by depositing dust and filth on them. During the Industrial Revolution in England, the air contained so much smoke and coal dust that it actually caused butterflies to alter their colour as an evolutionary adaptation so they could hide against the soot-covered buildings. Though we have different forms of air pollution today, the deposits that soil buildings and structures is one of the most common effects, often staining buildings a permanent colour with the dirt.

Acid Rain

While it may sound more dangerous than it is, acid rain is a serious matter. It refers to rain that has been affected by pollution so that it is more acidic than it should be. While you may not notice it when the rain hits your skin, the acidic nature of this rain can cause major damage to buildings and structures over time. This is especially true of limestone buildings, which are particularly sensitive to the effects of acid rain.

Protective Coatings

While acid rain is one way that structures can be damaged, there are other ways that buildings can be hurt by air pollution. Many contemporary air pollutants, according to the Imperial College Press, have the potential to degrade and damage organic coatings and polymers on structures. Air pollution can eat away the finishes on walls and stairs, the coatings on hand rails, and even the settings that hold in windows. Once those coatings are gone, the materials beneath are exposed to both the air and the pollution in the air and will be oxidised and damaged.