Scientists Identify The Culprits Responsible For The Browning Of India's Taj Mahal

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Mention the Indian subcontinent and one of the first things that comes to mind is the Taj Mahal. Located in Agra, the mausoleum that is widely hailed as the "Jewel of Muslim art in India", was built in the 1600's by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Intricately crafted from pure white marble, the masterpiece that took about 22 years to complete, is considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world and visited by millions of people each year.

However in the late 1970's, the pristine white exterior of the Taj Mahal's famous dome and minarets started to sport a brown hue. Since the grit is not water soluble, every few years the structure now has to be cleaned by painstakingly applying and removing a layer of clay. Though air pollution has long been suspected no studies were done until recently, when a team of scientists led by Georgia Institute of Technology's Mike Bergin and Sacchichida Tripathi from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, decided to investigate the cause.

The researchers began by placing small pieces of pristine white marble at several locations around Taj Mahal's main dome for two months. They then used scanning electron microscopy to examine the particles deposited. In addition, they also took air samples from the area and analyzed them for pollutants. The results were consistent. Both the air filters and the marble contained particles of dust, brown organic carbon and black carbon.

The scientists who published their findings in the online journal Environmental Science & Technology on December 3rd, 2014, believe that the carbon particles come from a number of sources - fuel combustion, vehicle exhausts, trash burning and brickmaking. They suspect that the dust emanates from local agricultural activities, as well as the increasing number of vehicles that traverse the area.

Now that the pollution source possibilities have been identified, the next plan is to curtail the activities causing them. Though the government has already taken some measures to reduce vehicle and industrial emissions in the vicinity of the Taj Mahal, there is still much to be done. However, since some the pollution could be resulting from sources that are much further out, identifying and controlling them could prove to be a little tricky.

But the researchers believe that it is of utmost importance. That's because the pollution is not just browning the Taj Mahal, but also impacting the well-being of the residents of the area, since many of the particles are known to be harmful to humans. As Bergin succinctly puts it “The health of humans and the health of the Taj Mahal are intertwined.”

Resources: sciencemag.org,rsc.org

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197 Comments
  • CyncereFriday, February 19, 2016 at 6:18 am
    The fact i liked the most is when it says it is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World
    • joeyThursday, February 18, 2016 at 6:55 am
      I learned that polutants are causing the taj mahal to brown and those pollutants can aslo kill or be harmful to humans exspically the ones around the taj mahal
      • pragie123
        pragie123Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 6:50 pm
        Yes. it spoils the nice view of nature.
      • EvieTuesday, February 16, 2016 at 9:18 am
        I learned that the Taj Mahal is browning because of pollutants and many other things. The pollutants can also be harmful to humans.
        • Jacob HartmanTuesday, February 16, 2016 at 7:38 am
          I learned that the Taj Mahal is in danger from pollutants as are the people whom live near or visit this area. The Taj Mahal and humans are intertwined in a way because the Taj Mahal gets injured (Browned) from pollutants and we are also in danger
          • EmmaTuesday, February 16, 2016 at 6:33 am
            I learned that the Taj Mahal is browning because of polutants and many other things. The people around the Taj Mahal could also be in danger because of the harmful pollutants.
            • hamzaMonday, January 11, 2016 at 5:15 am
              TAJ MAHAL is in india i`am from india TAJ MAHAL was build from many 5000 people and 500 elephant
              • awsomeWednesday, December 2, 2015 at 4:00 pm
                taj mahal is the BBBBEESSSSTTTTTTTTTT!!
                • super girlMonday, August 24, 2015 at 1:59 am
                  i like the story abut TAJ MAHAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                  • The Swag SquadFriday, August 21, 2015 at 10:54 am
                    I've been there it's really amazing.
                    • MateoWednesday, August 5, 2015 at 1:05 pm
                      Hello my name is mateo and I just wanted to point out, not to be rude to anyone, that this is happening in some other places. Like the white house Ect. So we should find a solution to this. Maybe by curtailing the use of cars and or making cars that don't run on pollution (oil, fuel) and make suitable cars that can run on air, compressed air, solar power, or other green items. please comment below on what you think :D I want to become a scientist one day :)