Breaking Discovery: Industrial Pollution Reached South Pole by 19th Century

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By Afza Fathima | July 30, 2014 6:42 PM EST

Industrial pollution had reached the South Pole 20 years before man had set foot on to it, confirmed a study on lead pollution over the southernmost continent in Earth. The first men to arrive at the South Pole were Roald Amundsen, Norwegian explorer, and Robert Falcon Scott, an Englishman, in 1911.


A pair of Adelie penguins are pictured at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, East Antarctica, in this December 28, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Pauline Askin/Files

Joe McConnell from the Desert Research Institute in Nevada and experts from the British Antarctic Survey have lead a team of international scientist which have been involved in a study to prove that air pollution due to industrial activities reached the South Pole in the late 19th century, 22 years before Roald Amundsen reached it. The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports, and includes details of ice core evidences dating back to the 1600s.

Nearly 1.5 million pounds of industrial lead have reached the surface of the Antarctic in the span of 130 years. Date from 16 ice cores were used from locations around Antarctica for a 410-year period between the years 1600 and 2010 AD. The lead author of the study, McConnell said that their study showed that industrial activities like smelting, mining and fossil fuel burning affect the world, including even the most remote parts. He added that the contamination due to industrial lead has been existing in Antarctica since the late 19th century.

The co-author of the study, Paul Ballelonga from the University of Copenhagen, explained that lead is a heavy metal, toxic in nature, which can potentially harm the ecosystems. He added that since the late 1980's the atmospheric concentrations and deposition rates have approximately grown six-fold.

In 1900, the Antarctic lead concentrations were in its peak and remained that way until the late 1920s, data suggested, following which was a decline during the period of the Great Depression and until the end of World War II.

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A pair of Adelie penguins are pictured at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, East Antarctica, in this December 28, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Pauline Askin/Files
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