A view of the Tower of London from across the river

Sniffing out pollution

How can we measure and control pollution levels inside buildings? Can we find out if pollution is a problem for our collections?

The Tower of London is located in the middle of the city, exposed to vehicle emission and industrial pollution from London and beyond. How much of that pollution gets inside the building and what effect does this have – could pollution cause damage to the important artefacts on display?

So what are we doing about this? 

We have recently completed a collaborative project, funded by the European Commission, which measured the pollutant levels inside the Tower of London. We developed new ways to manage the impact of pollution on artefacts in our care, using a new “preventive conservation strategy”. We harnessed new technology to measure pollution levels so that when pollution levels get too high, we can take action before any damage is caused to the objects.

This project has just finished. But, we will continue to use the technology to monitor pollution levels at the Tower of London. We monitor pollutant levels to make sure that our showcases are performing to highest standards to protect the valuable objects within.

Results and findings

The study showed that levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and ozone (O3) inside the Tower of London are very low. But, the levels of nitrous oxides (NOx), which are produced by vehicle exhausts, can become quite high throughout the year. Nitrous oxides can damage organic material such as paper and silk. Some of our most fragile objects are inside showcases to protect and keep them safe for our visitors, now and in the future.

Read more about this project

Want to discover more?

The first of Historic Royal Palaces’ aims is to give the palaces the care they deserve. Learn more about our conservation projects >

Other agents of decay

It's a constant battle against the causes of deterioration. Read about other agents of decay. 

You can help us

Palace upkeep is expensive work and as an independent charity we receive no funding from the Government or the Crown. We depend on our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors to help us. 

Find out how you can support us or become a volunteer.

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