We’re often told that the moment we’re born the end of live process begins. The same can be said for “The Last Supper” completed in 1498 by Leonardo da Vinci. As soon as the fresco was completed, it started to deteriorate.

The famous painting has suffered over the centuries from human carelessness, humidity, pollution, a wartime bombing and more. Nowadays, pollution is posing the biggest problem and human contact is being kept to a minimum.

Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) traveled to Milan, Italy, to conduct a year-long study to aid preservationists in the ongoing fight to save the masterpiece.

Unfortunately Milan has an air pollution problem to rival Los Angeles but, take heart, it’s not as bad as Cairo, Calcutta or Beijing.

Back in 2009 a new filtration system was installed in Milan’s church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, where the fresco is located to help illuminate pollutants from the refectory where “The Last Supper is on Display.”

The objective of the team from USC was to test the existing filtration system to determine the sources of indoor pollutants. The system was found to provide a significant reduction in air pollution. Fine and course particulate matter were reduced around the painting by 88 percent and 94 percent from the corresponding outdoor levels.

Indoor sources of pollutants were fairly small and came from fire retardants and cleaners. Researchers, however, found that humans pose a threat to the painting in the form of fatty lipids from the skin of visitors that appear in significant quantities around the fresco.

As a result, public viewing of the painting is regulated by timed entries, with only a handful of people allowed in the refectory at any given time.

My source for this article is my take on a hard-copy Charlotte Observer write-up and I am unable to provide a link.

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