01/14/2013 12:18 pm ET

York Minster Cathedral Considers Olive Oil To Solve Acid Rain Threat

York Minster, one of the largest gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe, has a serious problem. Acid rain stemming from air pollution dating as far back as the industrial revolution is damaging the 800 year-old limestone structure.

As Karen Wilson of Cardiff University explained to NPR: "The salts actually build up in the microstructure of the stone and eventually crack it, and large features will start to fall off the building."

The good news is that scientists have come up with a surprising possible solution: olive oil.

Linseed oil had previously been used to conserve York Minster, but as the Daily Mail reported, the substance darkened the color of the limestone and "reduced salt permeability, stopping the porous rock from 'breathing'."

Oleic acid, which is found in olive oil, is thought to preserve the stone without discoloring and simultaneously repelling rainfall which can contain harmful elements.

However, people should think twice before raiding the cooking oil section at their local grocery store for the cure-all limestone preservative.

Andrew Arrol, an employee of York Minister, cautioned people who might be tempted to apply olive oil to endangered building, telling the York Press that the research had been oversimplified. “We welcome scientific exploration and are commissioning it all the time, but this is just one interesting development," he said.

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