You may already know about the negative effects that human-driven climate change is having on Antarctica. But humans are affecting the southernmost continent in other ways as well.
The Chilean newspaper La Tercera reports that scientists have discovered the presence of arsenic pollution in Antarctic ice, and identified the contaminants as probably originating in Chilean copper mines and smelters 4,000 miles away.
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To form their conclusions, the scientists compared historical data about copper production in several southern countries with analysis of ice samples that dated back to the 1880s. They detected a spike that couldn't have been caused by naturally-occurring arsenic emissions, such as volcanoes.
Fortunately, the arsenic levels are millions of times too low - 7.94 picograms per gram of ice - to have much effect on creatures in the Antarctic ecosystem.
But the study's lead author, Franciele Schwanck of Brazil's Climate Center (CPC), explained to the newspaper that the presence of arsenic traces so far away suggests that Chileans are getting a much heavier dose of the toxic element, which has been linked to cancer, skin lesions, cardiovascular disease and neurological problems, according to the World Health Organization.
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Some work in Chile on soil and water contamination with arsenic show a serious public health problem," she told the newspaper.
The researchers determined that the emissions from Chilean smelters stayed in the the air for 10 days, long enough for it to waft across the water to the white continent.
Arsenic is found in many places across the Earth, and in its naturally occurring form it often is a source of groundwater pollution. But copper smelting, which releases arsenic into the air, presents another form of risk.
According to a scientific article published in 2008, Chile is one of a few countries with a dangerous level of arsenic contamination, with 1.8 million people - about 12 percent of the population - living in arsenic-contaminated areas.Epidemiological studies have shown elevated rates of bladder and lung cancer in those regions.