Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

First Evidence Of Pre-industrial Mercury Pollution In The Andes

Date:
May 19, 2009
Source:
University of Alberta
Summary:
The study of ancient lake sediment from high altitude lakes in the Andes has revealed for the first time that mercury pollution occurred long before the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Huancavelica, Peru.
Credit: Photo by Michael Romagnoli / Maya Web Services; Courtesy of Wikipedia

The study of ancient lake sediment from high altitude lakes in the Andes has revealed for the first time that mercury pollution occurred long before the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Related Articles


University of Alberta Earth and Atmospheric Sciences PhD student Colin Cooke's results from two seasons of field work in Peru have now provided the first unambiguous records of pre-industrial mercury pollution from anywhere in the world and will be published in the May 18th Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"The idea that mercury pollution was happening before the industrial revolution has long been hypothesised on the basis of historical records, but never proven," said Cooke whose research was funded by the National Geographic Society.

Cooke and his team recovered sediment cores from high elevation lakes located around Huancavelica, which is the New World's largest mercury deposit. By measuring the amount of mercury preserved in the cores back through time, they were able to reconstruct the history of mercury mining and pollution in the region.

"We found that mercury mining, smelting and emissions go back as far as 1400 BC," said Cooke. "More surprisingly, mining appears to have began before the rise of any complex or highly stratified society. This represents a departure from current thinking, which suggests mining only arose after these societies emerged," said Cooke.

Initially, mercury pollution was in the form of mine dust, largely resulting from the production of the red pigment vermillion. "Vermillion is buried with kings and nobles, and was a paint covering gold objects buried with Andean kings and nobles," said Cooke. However, following Inca control of the mine in 1450 AD, mercury vapour began to be emitted.

"This change is significant because it means that mercury pollution could be transported over much greater distances, and could have been converted into methylmercury, which is highly toxic," said Cooke.

"All of these results confirm long-standing questions about the existence and magnitude pre-industrial mercury pollution, and have implications for our understanding of how mining and metallurgy evolved in the Andes," said Cooke.

Cooke is an interdisciplinary scientist researching human impacts on the environment. His research combines paleolimnology (the study of ancient lake sediments) with the fields of archaeology, and geochemistry. The research team included Prentiss Balcom from the University of Connecticut (USA), Harald Biester from the University of Braunschweig (Germany), and Alexander Wolfe from the University of Alberta


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alberta. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Cooke et al. Over three millennia of mercury pollution in the Peruvian Andes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2009; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0900517106

Cite This Page:

University of Alberta. "First Evidence Of Pre-industrial Mercury Pollution In The Andes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090518172644.htm>.
University of Alberta. (2009, May 19). First Evidence Of Pre-industrial Mercury Pollution In The Andes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090518172644.htm
University of Alberta. "First Evidence Of Pre-industrial Mercury Pollution In The Andes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090518172644.htm (accessed March 6, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, March 6, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Late Winter Storm Wreaks Havoc Across Eastern US

Late Winter Storm Wreaks Havoc Across Eastern US

AP (Mar. 5, 2015) — A strong cold front moving across the eastern U.S. has dumped deep snow in some regions, creating hazardous conditions from Kentucky to New England. (March 5) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Keurig Co-Founder Says Company Has A Waste Problem

Keurig Co-Founder Says Company Has A Waste Problem

Newsy (Mar. 5, 2015) — Keurig co-founder John Sylvan told The Atlantic he doesn&apos;t even own a Keurig because they&apos;re too expensive and produce too much waste. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) — Once nearly extinct, grey whales now migrate in their thousands to Mexico&apos;s Vizcaino reserve in Baja California, in search of warmer waters to mate and give birth. Tourists flock to the reserve to see the whales, measuring up to 49 feet long. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Injured Miners Treated After Blast

Raw: Injured Miners Treated After Blast

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) — An explosion ripped through a coal mine before dawn Wednesday in war-torn eastern Ukraine, killing at least one miner, officials said. Graphic video of injured miners being treated in a Donetsk hospital. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins