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
Colin Cooke | EurekAlert!
Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide
Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences