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The effect of uric acid on outdoor copper and bronze

by E. Bernardi, D. J. Bowden, P. Brimblecombe, H. Kenneally, L. Morselli
Science of the Total Environment ()

Abstract

Bird droppings are often quoted as a decay agent for outdoor goods, in particular buildings and statues. Undoubtedly, they represent one of the major causes of aesthetic damage on outdoor materials, but the real chemical damage they are able to induce, in particular on metals, is not so well studied. This work focused on the short term role of uric acid, the main constituent of bird urine, with respect to copper, which make such an important contribution to architectural elements of buildings and outdoor sculpture. Preliminary results of laboratory tests and analyses on real exposed samples showed that uric acid chemically affects copper and bronzes: the surface of the metal is modified and copper urates formed. Also natural patina, formed on statues and roof, react with uric acid, even if it seems to afford some protection toward bird droppings. In general, experimental results confirm that the potential chemical damage by bird droppings is significant when considering external cultural heritage such as statues, metal monuments and buildings with historic copper roofs. ?? 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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