Friday, December 25, 2009

Snow Atop the Andes Mountains No Longer Pure … Why Should This Concern You?

Snow Atop the Andes Mountains No Longer Pure …
Why Should This Concern You?
Link to full article below

Stretching 4,500 miles from Venezuela to the tip of Chile are the Andes Mountains, drawing thousands of visitors each year to witness the longest mountain range along with one of the highest mountain peaks in the world.

Traces of toxic PCBs have made their way to one of the “purest” places on Earth: the top of the Andes mountains.

Sadly, even remote parts of the world like this -- long considered to be among the purest forms of nature -- have been tainted by environmental pollutants. In a recent study researchers tested snow samples from Aconcagua Mountain in Argentina, which is considered the highest peak in the Andes at 22,834 feet high, and found traces of a toxic pollutant called PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls).

How PCBS are Making Their Way Into the Environment

PCBs are a mixture of 209 man-made chlorinated chemicals. They can enter the environment through air, water, and soil during their manufacture, use, and disposal; from accidental spills and leaks during their transport; and from leaks or fires in products containing PCBs.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), before being banned in the United States in 1979, PCBs were found in various products such as old fluorescent lighting fixtures and electrical devices containing PCB capacitors, old microscope and hydraulic oils, paints and carbonless copy paper.

Even though the traces of PCB found in the Andes snow samples were low, researchers expressed serious concerns because:

1. These contaminants found their way through the atmosphere to these very remote areas of 20,340 feet elevation
2. A change in climate -- such as a warm spell that would cause glaciers to melt -- would lead to pollutants finding their way into the meltwater that is used for agriculture and drinking

Please read the full article:

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