Humans began contributing to environmental lead pollution as early as 8,000 years ago, according to a University of Pittsburgh research report.
The Pitt research team detected the oldest-discovered remains of human-derived lead pollution in the world in the northernmost region of Michigan, suggesting metal pollution from mining and other human activities appeared far earlier in North America than in Europe, Asia, and South America. Their findings are highlighted on the cover of the latest issue of Environmental Science & Technology.
"Humanity's environmental legacy spans thousands of years, back to times traditionally associated with hunter-gatherers. Our records indicate that the influence of early Native Americans on the environment can be detected using lake sediments," said David Pompeani, lead author of the research paper and a PhD candidate in Pitt's Department of Geology and Planetary Science. "These findings have important implications for interpreting both the archeological record and environmental history of the upper Great Lakes."
The University of Pittsburgh research team—which included, from Pitt's Department of Geology and Planetary Science, Mark Abbott, associate professor of paleoclimatology, and Daniel Bain, assistant professor of catchment science, along with Pitt alumnus Byron A. Steinman (A&S '11G)—examined Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula because it is the largest source of pure native copper in North America. Early surveys of the region in the 1800s identified prehistoric human mining activity in the form of such tools as hammerstones, ladders, and pit mines.
The team from the Department of Geology and Planetary Science investigated the timing, location, and magnitude of ancient copper mining pollution. Sediments were collected in June 2010 from three lakes located near ancient mine pits. They analyzed the concentration of lead, titanium, magnesium, iron, and organic matter in the collected sediment cores—finding distinct decade- to century-scale increases in lead pollution preserved from thousands of years ago.
"These data suggest that measurable levels of lead were emitted by preagricultural societies mining copper on Keweenaw Peninsula starting as early as 8,000 years ago," said Pompeani. "Collectively, these records have confirmed, for the first time, that prehistoric pollution from the Michigan Copper Districts can be detected in the sediments found in nearby lakes."
By contrast, reconstructions of metal pollution from other parts of the world, such as Asia, Europe, and South America, only provide evidence for lead pollution during the last 3,000 years, said Pompeani.
"We're hopeful that our work can be used in the future to better understand past environmental changes," said Abbott.
The team is currently investigating places near other prehistoric copper mines surrounding Lake Superior.
The research paper, "Lake Sediments Record Prehistoric Lead Pollution Related to Early Copper Production in North America," was first published online May 14 in Environmental Science and Technology. The work was funded by a Henry Leighton Memorial Fund grant through the University of Pittsburgh Department of Geology and Planetary Science, a graduate student research award from the Geological Society of America, and instrumental support from the National Science Foundation.
B. Rose Huber | EurekAlert!
When corals eat plastics
24.05.2018 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences