Air pollution damage to infrastructure and industry

Poor air quality affects our infrastructure. Residential and commercial buildings, monuments, and many other physical assets are damaged by poor air quality. Repairing this damage costs money that could be invested more productively elsewhere.

Acid rain accelerates the corrosion of materials such as limestone, sandstone, mortar and many metals, causing serious problems for older buildings, outdoor sculptures and monuments. Acid rain damages stonework because it dissolves calcium carbonate, leaving behind crystals in the rock when it evaporates. As the crystals grow they break apart the stone.

These damages are a major problem for national monuments and historical structures, which can be very costly to repair or protect. The Canadian Conservation Institute and the U.S. National Center for the Preservation of Technology and Training are developing innovative conservation methods to restore and protect historical structures and cultural monuments.

There are also costs for property owners associated with air pollution. Acid rain dissolves paint and corrodes aluminum siding, accelerating the need for repairs and repainting, affecting the aesthetic appearance of houses. Dirt particles in the air also make buildings dirty, meaning property owners have to spend more money on cleanup.

Poor air quality also burdens agriculture and forests. For example, acid rain has led to a loss of soil nutrients in Atlantic Canada, leading to reduced tree health and growth. At current acid rain levels, over half a million cubic metres of wood are being lost from forests in Atlantic Canada due to reduced soil nutrients and tree growth. At market prices, the value of this lost wood is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Based on soil content and acid rain levels in central Canada, it is likely that millions of cubic metres of wood are also being lost in Ontario and Quebec each year, though data to verify this assumption is not currently available.

Ground level ozone also harms forests and many agricultural crops. The ozone impacts on forests are not completely understood yet, but the impacts of ozone on agriculture are well documented and known to cost Canadian farmers millions in lost production and higher fertilization costs each year.

Air pollution also hurts other industries such as tourism and commercial fishing. Tourism is an important industry for Canada, and a large part of Canada's tourism industry is related to the environment. In 1996 Canadians spent over $11 billion on nature-related activities. But it is difficult to enjoy the spectacular views and enjoy wildlife and nature through smog. Acid rain can also significantly reduce fish stocks in Canada which could have a serious implication for both recreational fishing and Canada's multi-billion-dollar per year commercial fishing industry.

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