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03 Dec 2010: Toxic Pollutants Found
at Remote Heights of Mount Everest

Scientists have found harmful levels of heavy metal pollutants on remote reaches of Mount Everest, an indication of the great distances industrial air pollution can travel. Every snow sample collected at altitudes between 5,334 and 7,772 meters (17,500 to 25,498 feet) contained levels of cadmium and arsenic that exceeded U.S. safety standards, according to researchers at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham, while every soil sample contained unsafe levels of cadmium. According to the study, published in the journal Soil Survey Horizons, toxin levels were highest toward the top of the mountain, which suggests that high-altitude winds had carried the toxins from Asian industrial sites. Researchers called the results a reason for concern because mountaineers rely on melted snow for drinking water and high winds may also kick up toxins located in the soil. “People at Everest base camp often wear ventilators, simply because there is so much dust,” said Samantha Langley-Turnbaugh, one of the researchers.


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