Distant warnings

Published: Monday 30 November 1998

THE widespread effects of pollution can be gauged from the fact that the remotest and the most uninhabitable regions on earth are facing the brunt of pollution caused by pesticides and industrial chemicals. Researchers at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, found that atmospheric processes are transporting and dumping chemicals such as the dioxyribonucleic acid molecule (DDT) on top of the Canadian mountain range. Chemicals known as organochlorine compounds evaporate into the atmosphere at low-lying areas during the summer and are then carried along as vapours until they reach higher cold mounntanious regios. Here they condense on the surface of snow and ice.

In an article published in the science journal Nature, the team reported that concentration of pollution were up to 100 times higher at the top of the Canadian Rocky mountains, than at lower levels. However, they stated that the concentrations were not high enough to harm humans. At the same time, they urged that reservoirs high above the sea level which are used as a source of drinking water should be studied as a precaution. According to one of the researchers, David Schindler. "The worst of all would be an area like the Himalaya, where we have elevations up to twice the Canadian range. What is really alarming is that some of the most intensive pesticides are used very close to the range."

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