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Extensive contour scaling of a 200 year old granite church is associated with the breaching of an apparently iron-rich crust and the widespread deposition of atmospheric dust within the canyon-like streetscape of Rio de Janeiro. Contemporary dust, accumulated dust from within a depression on the building surface, the surface crust and the underlying granite are examined by a combination of total element analysis and sequential extraction, X-ray diffraction and energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence. Results indicate an increase in total organic carbon and marked decrease in pH within the accumulated dust, and a rapid mobilization of anions and cations from the water-soluble and carbonate phases. It is considered that the latter is linked to salt accumulation within and eventual salt weathering of the granite. Post-depositional alteration of the dust is also linked with the de-silicification of clay minerals (illite to kaolinite) and the loss of silica from the amorphous Fe/Mn phase of the accumulated dust under the initially saline and progressively more acidic conditions experienced at the stone–atmosphere interface. This mobilization of silica is associated with the formation of what is, in effect, a thin silica-rich surface crust or glaze. Within the glaze, accessory amounts of extractable iron are concentrated within the amorphous and crystalline Fe/Mn phases at levels that are significantly elevated with respect to the underlying granite, but much lower than in the equivalent phases of the accumulated dust from which it is principally assumed to derive. The protection afforded to the stonework by the crust is not, however, permanent and within the last 15 years it has been possible to observe a rapid increase in the surface delamination of the church close to street level.

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