Researchers have discovered the oldest evidence of manmade air pollution hidden in an ice cap in the Peruvian Andes.
As per Live Science, authors of a study distributed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science journal accept the pollutants originated in the Bolivian mountain Potosí’s silver mines.
“This proof supports the thought that human impact on nature was extensive even before the industrial revolution,” study co-author Paolo Gabrielli, a researcher at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at Ohio State University, said in a press release.
Found in sixteenth century Spanish silver mines in Peru, the traces’ origins would have been many miles away if they did actually initiate in Bolivia. However, the city of Potosí has a well-documented and celebrated industrial history in South America for its silver.
“There is a long preindustrial history of mining in Peru and Bolivia,” Gabrielli told Live Science. “Our study shows that since the colonial time, mining and metallurgic activities performed by the Spanish did also have an impact on exceptionally remote territories.”
The group of researchers utilized an instrument called a mass spectrometer, which can quantify chemicals in number and type based on a single sample. For their study, Gabrielli and his group searched for antimony, arsenic, bismuth, molybdenum and lead in the ice cap.
“The fact that we can discover pollution in ice from an immaculate high elevation area is investigative of the continental significance of this statement,” Gabrielli said in the release. “Just a significant source of pollution could travel so far, and influence the chemistry of the snow on a remote place like Quelccaya.