Thursday, December 10, 2009


Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are toxic pollutants that cause a plethora of health problems. Recently, there have been traces of PCBs found amidst the snow atop the Andes Mountains. An article titled Snow at Highest Elevations No Longer Pure discusses the findings of scientists who have been testing the snow from the highest peak in the Americas. "PCBs are man-made organic chemicals that contain chlorine atoms, and are part of a larger group of compounds known as chlorinated hydrocarbons. Before being banned in the United States in 1979 (and around the world in 2001), these chemicals were found in a variety of products, including electrical equipment, paints, plastics and carbonless copy paper, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)" When testing the snow atop the Aconcagua Mountain in South America, they also found low concentrations of these PCBs. "However, it's interesting to see this contaminant in the Southern Hemisphere at all, said Ricardo Barra of the University of Concepcion in Chile, because most PCB use was in the Northern Hemisphere."
In our BIO230 class, we discussed the significance of the Northern Hemisphere. Because there is more land, there is more activity, meaning more emissions of chemicals into the air. This is why the finding of PCBs in the Southern Hemisphere is so peculiar. In the article, they state that climate change could potentially spread these pollutants. "The shrinking of the glaciers could lead to the pollutants stored in the glacier snow being carried down with the meltwater... Since the meltwater is used for agriculture and drinking, contaminants in the water could pose a health risk."

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