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In order to link electrochemical performance degradation of the cathode in a large solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) to the presence of pollutant species, a spatially-resolved study of contaminants was performed. Distribution maps of pollutants over the cell allowed to identify their sources. Besides chromium and silicon, sulfur was found as a major pollutant species. Its preferential reaction with strontium doped lanthanum cobaltite (LSC), forming strontium sulfate SrSO4, compared to strontium doped lanthanum manganite (LSM) is revealed here. When sulfur poisoning arises in combination with chromium, a sulfur-containing strontium chromate compound is formed.