Building materials as intrinsic sources of sulphate: A hidden face of salt weathering of historical monuments investigated through multi-isotope tracing (B, O, S)
Sulphate neoformation is a major factor of degradation of stone monuments. Boron, sulphur and oxygen isotope signatures were investigated for five French historical monuments (Bourges, Chartres and Marseille cathedrals, Chenonceau castle, and Versailles garden statues) to investigate the role of intrinsic sulphate sources (gypsum plasters and mortars) in stone degradation, compared to the influence of extrinsic sources such as atmospheric pollution. Gypsum plasters and gypsum-containing mortars fall systematically in the δ34S and δ18O range of Paris Basin Eocene evaporites indicating the origin of the raw materials (so-called "Paris plaster"). Black crusts show the typical S and O isotope signatures observed elsewhere in Europe that can be attributed to atmospheric pollution, together with a marine component for Marseille. Boron isotopes for black crusts indicate coal combustion as principal boron source. Mortar isotope compositions discriminate three types, one similar to gypsum plasters, one strongly depleted in 34S, attributed to pyrite oxidation, and a third one close to atmospheric sulphates. The isotopic composition of sulphates and boron of most degraded building stones of the different monuments is well explained by the identified sulphate sources. In several cases (in particular for Chenonceau and Bourges, to some extent for Chartres), the impact of gypsum plaster as building and restoration material on the degradation of the stones in its vicinity was clearly demonstrated. The study illustrates the usefulness of multi-isotope studies to investigate stone degradation factors, as the combination of several isotope systematics increases the discriminatory power of isotope studies with respect to contaminant sources. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.