Heavy metals: A heavy burden on the icy continent.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree LevelPostgraduate Certificate
Degree NamePostgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
Antarctica has for a long time been viewed as a pristine and isolated environment mostly untouched by human activity. During the early years of southern exploration Antarctica’s worth to science and humanity was dismissed as a waste of time, but as our understanding of the earths various environmental systems increased it showed Antarctica influences much of the way the earth works. With increasing amounts of research taking place it is becoming clear that Antarctica not only profoundly influences us, but that we are globally linked and are having an influence on it too through pollution produced locally and from all over the globe. Most human activity and its associated pollution in Antarctica is highly localized, and waste disposal in the early years was in the form of snow pits, waste dumps, open pit burning, and release of untreated sewage into the oceans. This was the mindset in those times, but has now changed to a more environmentally aware regime. Antarctica is now facing a more serious threat from pollution which began at the time of the industrial revolution. Heavy metals such as Pb, Cd, As, and Hg, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as chlorofluorocarbons, pesticides, and industrial compounds can now be found in places humans have never been before. These pollutants are transported to the poles via the atmosphere in the form of aerosols and global distillation of volatile compounds, and are accumulating in snow and wildlife.
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