An amazingly old sample of pollution that dates about 400 years back was discovered by a team of researchers in an ice cap of the Peruvian Andes. The scientists reported their discovery this week saying that evidence of air contamination was found in centuries’ old mining site spreading over several miles.
The experts claim that this is the first clear proof of human-made air pollution in South America from a period preceding the Industrial Revolution. Pollution in the area probably began in what’s presently Bolivia – in the silver mines of Potosí mountaintop.
The city of Potosí has such a full industrial past that the region has become an UNESCO World Heritage site. During the colonial period Potosí turned into the biggest silver mining source on the planet.
Despite the fact that Incas had gathered and refined silver in the region for hundreds of years before the Spanish arrived, in the end Spanish mining techniques gained the monopole and an arrangement of slave work was established. Spanish diggers introduced amalgamation. This is a procedure in which silver is grinded into powder and creating in the process a lot of dust. When billows of lead-loaded dust began to spread, pollution also made its appearance in the area.
The author of this recent study is Paolo Gabrielli, a research expert at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at Ohio State University. With the publishing of his research about the pollution traces in the Peruvian Andes he also made the following remarks:
“Until now, what we knew about pre-industrial atmospheric pollution was limited to the Northern Hemisphere. Our Peruvian record gives the first clear proof of a vast scale preindustrial sign of anthropogenic [human-caused] root in the air of the Southern Hemisphere.”
According to Gabrielli the fact that he and his team were able to find pollution evidence in ice located at such high altitudes is an indication that the area producing it was rather large and pollution rates were very high. He noted:
“Only a significant source of pollution could travel so far, and affect the chemistry of the snow on a remote place like Quelccaya.”
The discoveries of the report hint that that a severe man-caused effect on the environment started to occur well before the Industrial Revolution.
According to Kendall Brown, a history professor at Brigham Young University in Utah, who was not part of the study, it is obvious that Spanish mining in the American colonies had been happening at an industrial rate. Also he claimed that the theory that huge man-made environmental pollution only started in the eighteenth century is a Euro-centric approach.
Image Source: Mining Awareness