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Man-made Pollution Dates as Early as the Incans

The earliest sources of man-made pollution are thought to have started in the Industrial Revolution, a time known for its shift in...

The earliest sources of man-made pollution are thought to have started in the Industrial Revolution, a time known for its shift in manufacturing processes which often lead to significant amounts of air pollution.  Indeed, the Industrial Revolution saw a significant changes in iron production and chemical manufacturing as well as a shift from the use of bio-fuels such as wood to coal.  Collectively, these changes marked the one of the first times man-made pollution began to have a noticeable effect on the environment.

And recently, scientists have found out that some of the first man-made pollution was not from the Industrial Revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries, but the Incans in the 16th century.  During the 16th century, the Spanish Empire had conquered South America and forced the indigenous population (the Incans) of the area of present-day Bolivia to refine the silver in mines atop Potosí mountain.  The Spanish used a process called amalgamation to speed up the process of refining silver.  However, this process produced metal dust, which would be carried off by the winds to form clouds of metal-rich dust.  

Clouds of the metal-rich dust would eventually travel up to 500 miles away into Peru, where it would then be captured in ice.  Scientists made the discovery upon finding bits of lead with a chemical signature that could be traced back to the silver mines in Potosí in a strip of ice from the Quelccaya Ice Cap.  To give an idea of how much metal-rich dust was released into the environment, Potosí later became the single largest source of silver in the world.  And while the amount of pollution from the silver production in Potosí was significant, the amount of pollution released into the atmosphere today is astronomically higher than in the 16th century. If only we knew what their equivalent of an air purifier was.

Source: Nature World News

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