Spanish Conquistadors Brought Air Pollution
Dr. Colin Cooke, a Water Quality Scientist at the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency in Edmonton, and his colleagues, investigated ice cores extracted from a glacier in the Peruvian Andes that preserves a record of annual deposits dating back thousands of years.
In it they found a spike in levels of several toxic metals, including lead and antimony, dating to the 1500s when the Spanish were intensively smelting silver using polluting open-air techniques. They also found low levels of bismuth dating to the earlier Incan period, suggesting that air pollution in South America pre-dates the industrial revolution by centuries.
- Paper in PNAS
- Ohio State University release
- Science news article