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Earth Science

Organic Pollutants Poison the Roof of the World 114

ananyo writes "Toxic chemicals are accumulating in the ecosystems of the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau, researchers warn in the first comprehensive study to assess levels of organic pollutants in that part of the world. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are carbon-based compounds that are resistant to break-down. Some originate from the burning of fuel or the processing of electronic waste, and others are widely used as pesticides or herbicides or in the manufacture of solvents, plastics and pharmaceuticals. Some POPs, such as the pesticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and the herbicide Agent Orange, can cause diseases such as cancers, neurological disorders, reproductive dysfunction and birth defects. The researchers found large amounts of POPs (including DDT) in various components of the ecosystems such as soil, grass, trees and fish in the Himalayas and in the Tibetan plateau, especially at the highest elevations."
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Organic Pollutants Poison the Roof of the World

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  • ... that will say that it's actually the cows causing this!
    • Personally I'm for this, I mean why should they sit on their high horses, or make that high llamas, on the top of the world and look down on us? If we all have to eat, drink, and breathe chemicals so some "job creators" can make an extra 3% profit per quarter than by God so should they. Spoiled, that's what they are!

      And just to piss off both sides how much you wanna bet that Rev Al Gore will come out with a PPT that shows all you need to fix this is cap and trade? [] Oh the fact that he will make a couple of

  • Damn it! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 12, 2013 @11:07AM (#43432411)

    Organic Pollutants Poison the Roof of the World

    Damn it! I always bought my pollutants in the Organic aisle at the supermarket. I might as well stick with the regular pollutants and save a few bucks.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    How long until Monsanto or other evil company sues the sherpas for patent infrigement?

  • TFA says "large amounts of...".

    How many parts per trillion is "large"?

    • Re:Article fail (Score:5, Informative)

      by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 12, 2013 @11:27AM (#43432609) Journal
      If you click the link to the research at the bottom, there is a summary available that reads:

      High mountains may serve as “cold traps” for persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and ice cores can provide long-term records of atmospheric deposition of pollutants. In this study, DDT, hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCHs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in an ice core from East Rongbuk Glacier were analyzed and the deposition fluxes of these pollutants were investigated. Concentrations of total DDTs reached maxima of approximately 2 ng l1 in mid-1970s, which is corresponding to the peak of malaria cases in India (in 1976). The decrease of DDT concentration after 1990s was in-line with the ban of DDT in India (in 1989). High level of -HCH was observed in early 1970s and it showed a decrease to undetectable level at the end of 1990s, which is in agreement with the period when India banned the usage of HCH (in 1997). Concentrations of total PAHs sharply increased after 1990 and the peak (approximately 100 ng l1) was found at the end of 1990s, when India entered the rapid industrialization (urbanization). PAHs in the ice core are dominantly pyrogenic in source, and are mainly from incomplete combustion of coal and biomass burning. Good correlations among concentrations of PAHs, nssSO42 and microparticles in snow pit samples showed that the origin of the PAHs and nssSO42 is often the same and they may be absorbed by particles and transported to high mountain regions by atmospheric circulation.

      (please note that Slashdot does not support the superscript I just copied and pasted)

      Also, my google fu turned up one of the original research articles [] that appears to be hosted for non commercial purposes only.

      • Re:Article fail (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Friday April 12, 2013 @12:16PM (#43433077)
        Which is actually very pertinent information as it suggests that this finding is more a useful tool for measuring the improvement (or failure to improve) of man's releasing of pollutants into the environment than it is a newly discovered threat. Although if the more extreme global warming alarmists are correct, these pollutants may get released into the environment at some future date, to the detriment of those living near the Himalayas (probably not an issue for those living at a distance from the Himalayas).
      • Ice cores from a glacier in the Himalayas?

        This is a totally fraudulent piece of research because those all melted years ago. At least Al Gore's buddies were mumbling something about that at their UN conferences.

    • how many parts per trillion do you want in your blood?
  • by stevegee58 ( 1179505 ) on Friday April 12, 2013 @11:09AM (#43432449) Journal
    POOP = Persistent Olfactory Organic Pollutants"
  • by Scot Seese ( 137975 ) on Friday April 12, 2013 @11:14AM (#43432495)

    When I read "Organic Pollutants", I initially thought the article was referring to humanity.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    No need for government regulation of these chemicals, the farmer in Iowa will adjust his activities to save the mentioned lands.
  • looking at origins of these pollutants in the article, neither from China nor USA. w00t, we can keep pumping out the stank

  • which is melting away all those glaciers where the POP's are lodging, then the load of carcinogens is washing into the matter what the folks down stream do or don't do about their own sources of pollution. Now the poor of India can have equal access to the cancer rates of the first-world economies.

    If we can't spread the wealth around, what good are we anyway?
    • I dunno. At the level of carcinogens in the study, washing all of that into the Ganges may actually make that cesspool cleaner.

  • what in the actual fuck is "the roof of the world"
  • by minstrelmike ( 1602771 ) on Friday April 12, 2013 @11:58AM (#43432897)
    If plants are taking in these POPs, then pretty soon Monsanto will take care of the problem by suing to stop basic biology from happening.
  • DDT gets a bad rap (Score:4, Informative)

    by urusan ( 1755332 ) on Friday April 12, 2013 @11:58AM (#43432901)

    DDT is villianized far out of proportion these days. Although admittedly they are both POPs, setting it rhetorically alongside Agent Orange as though they are the same is absurd.

    DDT's carcinogenic properties are not really all that serious. We expose ourselves to more carcinogenic substances all the time, such as gasoline fumes. These minor effects were played up by DDT's opponents back in the day to scare people into accepting a DDT ban. Similarly, the acute toxicity is minor. To my knowledge, there's only one case where someone died from consuming DDT, and in that case the DDT may have contained other harmful chemicals.

    On the other side of the coin, DDT saved millions of lives by eliminating malarial mosquitoes and other harmful insects. It easily saved more lives than it took.

    Agent Orange on the other hand has caused awful damage in the areas where it was used extensively. If DDT was even close to as dangerous as it was made out to be by its opponents, then the present day impacts would be like a worldwide version of the Agent Orange boondoggle...times 1000.

    • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Friday April 12, 2013 @12:12PM (#43433043) Journal

      It wasn't about human lives per se, it was about the heavy toll on the environment. DDT was the nuclear option of pesticides, it killed everything good and bad. Now for people who want to use it again they need to realize that even back then insects like mosquitoes were already developing genetic resistance to it because it was overused. Plus there are alternatives to DDT now that are superior and more selective.

      We've also become much more aware of the effects of chronic low-level exposure to toxins. It may not kill you outright but over decades could be causing genetic damage, neurological damage, etc. Most people want to live long and healthy lives I assume.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by motoservo ( 1327295 )
      You talk of DDT toxicity in humans as if that were the only concern. DDT almost single handedly wiped out entire species of birds and fish (including our American emblem the bald eagle). If that's not a canary in a coalmine?
    • by reanjr ( 588767 ) on Friday April 12, 2013 @02:44PM (#43434535) Homepage

      I think you're forgetting the primary concern with DDT was birth defects, not cancer. Primarily in animal populations. ...and the fact that insects were becoming resistant to it anyway, in some cases.

      • One study found a 33% increase in urogenital birth defects. Significant, but not exactly large, treatable, and probably preventable by taking special precautions with women. Malaria in babies, on the other hand, is extremely serious and likely far more frequent without prevention.

    • Mod parent up. DDT is safe for humans and the environment.

  • Because the world is humanities's toilet now.

  • by EmagGeek ( 574360 ) <(gterich) (at) (> on Friday April 12, 2013 @12:20PM (#43433117) Journal

    Ugly Bags of Mostly Water are the real problem.

    Bacteria in a petri dish will eventually die from living in their own "filth."

    Ugly Bags of Mostly Water are no different, and will continue to reproduce as long as there is a food source, until waste management becomes impossible and they die off from being poisoned by their own excrement.

  • by houbou ( 1097327 ) on Friday April 12, 2013 @12:45PM (#43433343) Journal
    Sadly, for a people who live in relative isolation, they are getting poisoned by the rest of us.
    Even though they ignore our ways of life for their simple one, they end up not being able to trust the air and the water they are surrounded with as it delivers them poisons.
    This world is too fractured to come up with viable options for actually cleaning up and reversing the damages we've done.
    Yet we must, because eventually, we will cause damages which will be hard to revert from.
    We need to normalize our social and political landscape across the entire globe and we need to figure out a true viable global economy which factors in, the proper way of doing business which enforces keeping our environment clean and pollutant free.
    We have the technology, but we don't have the maturity. This planet is being exploited to the bones by a few very greedy bastards and the flock of sheeps who won't do nothing about it.
    Better grow up folks, because this is the only planet we have.
    Profit at the cost of our environment is wrong.
    Unless you don't care about the legacy you leave your children and their future progeny.
    • do you have any proof for your assertion? those people have to deal with poisons already, the world has had arsenic, lead, mercury, etc. since the dawn of time, and no doubt their lifestyle with less than ideal sanitation introduces more. anyway, average lifespan has almost doubled there in 20th century to 67 years, modern times can't be all bad for them

      • by houbou ( 1097327 )
        Proof of assertion?
        Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch the size of Texas?
        Rings a bell?
        All the major cities in the US have pollution index, and this air pollution is a direct link to COPD. I have COPD, never smoked in my life. Don't even hang around smokers, but I'm a city boy, or used to, now, because of that, I tend to stay in the country, better air, in my area anyway.
        It's common sense, this planet can only do so much to sustain itself when we keep making it worse.
        For example, we keep chopping down mo
  • First Study (Score:4, Informative)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Friday April 12, 2013 @01:19PM (#43433679)

    I am sure this is a valuable piece of work, as it is claimed as the first of it's type and will be very useful as a benchmark. Analytic chemistry has progressed tremendously over the 40 years I was a practicing chemist, to the point where concentrations of particularly dangerous materials are possible to measure at femtograms per liter. At those concentrations you are detecting a very small number of molecules in a sample,

    But since it's the first it really doesn't say much in terms of the progression of the state of affairs in these ecologies. It will be very interesting to see what the results are in a decade or two; whether the measures we are taking now to reduce the presence of these various very bad actors in the environment are being effected by environmental controls or not.

    People greatly underestimate the versatility of Nature as a chemist. Some of the worst chemicals found in these studies are formed not only by man, but by Nature as well. For example DDT like chemicals have been found to exist in every evolutionary epoch. [] []

  • by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Friday April 12, 2013 @01:23PM (#43433717)

    Lets link to a vague report based on a paywalled paper. There is no way to look at the actual numbers to verify the article's assertions.

    More alarmingly, the researchers also detected large amounts of POPs in various components of the ecosystems such as soil, grass, trees and fish in the Himalayas ...

    Terms like "large amounts" are meaningless as it is a relative subjective term. My "large amount" may be different than their "large amount". Show me the numbers. It looks to me like they want people to buy their report.

  • ...and is harmless to humans and other life forms.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.