Heavy Metals Now Dangerously Contaminate Snow & Soil Atop Mount Everest

mount everest photo

photo: Rupert Taylor-Price/Creative Commons

Is there no place on the planet where human-caused pollution has not reached? Scientists have discovered that both the snow and soil on Mount Everest now contains dangerous levels of arsenic and cadmium, most brought to the roof of the world thanks to the spreading air pollution. As New Scientist reports, snow samples taken even 300 meters at altitudes between 5334 and 7772 meters on Everest all had concentrations of arsenic and cadmium in excess of what the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe; soil samples taken in the same locations had high levels of arsenic.

Samantha Langley-Turnbaugh, from the University of Southern Maine at Gorham, notes that as mountaineers rely on melted snow for water the heavy metal concentrations "could be a concern."

The original paper notes that due to the lack of samples available for other high altitude sites, there is very limited research to determine how the concentrations on Everest compare. The authors suggest developing a comprehensive database from other high-altitude settings so that it can be determined if the source of the heavy metals is from natural or anthropogenic sources.

Read the paper: Trace Element Deposition on Mount Everest [PDF]

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