Saturday March 07, 2015
Spanish Conquistadors Brought Air Pollution
When the Spanish invaded Central and South America in the 16th century they brought modern weapons, European diseases, and 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