Reports

Greenland Ice Evidence of Hemispheric Lead Pollution Two Millennia Ago by Greek and Roman Civilizations

Science  23 Sep 1994:
Vol. 265, Issue 5180, pp. 1841-1843
DOI: 10.1126/science.265.5180.1841

Abstract

Analysis of the Greenland ice core covering the period from 3000 to 500 years ago—the Greek, Roman, Medieval and Renaissance times—shows that lead is present at concentrations four times as great as natural values from about 2500 to 1700 years ago (500 B.C. to 300 A.D.). These results show that Greek and Roman lead and silver mining and smelting activities polluted the middle troposphere of the Northern Hemisphere on a hemispheric scale two millennia ago, long before the Industrial Revolution. Cumulative lead fallout to the Greenland Ice Sheet during these eight centuries was as high as 15 percent of that caused by the massive use of lead alkyl additives in gasoline since the 1930s. Pronounced lead pollution is also observed during Medieval and Renaissance times.

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