Changes in heavy metals in Antarctic snow from Coats Land since the mid-19th to the late-20th century

V, Cr, Mn, Cu, Zn, Co, Ag, Cd, Ba, Pb, Bi and U have been measured in a series of dated snow samples, covering the period from 1834 to 1990, collected at remote, low accumulation sites in Coats Land, Antarctica. They were determined by ultrasensitive inductively coupled sector field mass spectrometry in ultraclean conditions. Concentrations are found to be extremely low, down to 3 x 10(-15) g/g, for most metals, then confirming the high purity of Antarctic snow. The results show contrasting time trends for the different metals. For Mn, Co, Ba, and possibly V and Cd, no clear time trends are observed. For Cr, Cu, Zn, Ag, Pb, Bi and U, on the other hand, pronounced enhancements are observed during the recent decades. They are attributed to emissions of heavy metals to the atmosphere from human activities in Southern America, Southern Africa and Australia, especially non-ferrous metal mining and smelting in Chile, Peru, Zaire, Zambia and Australia. It shows that atmospheric pollution for heavy metals in the remote Antarctic continent is not limited to Pb and Cu, as previously thought, but also affects several other metals. It is a further indication that atmospheric pollution for heavy metals is really global.


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Authors: Planchon, Frédéric A.M., Boutron, Claude F., Barbante, Carlo, Cozzi, Giulio, Gaspari, Vania, Wolff, Eric W., Ferrari, Christophe P., Cescon, Paolo

On this site: Eric Wolff
1 January, 2002
Earth and Planetry Science Letters / 200
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