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Man has been polluting the atmosphere for two thousand years already

15 June 2017, 09:00

The atmosphere began to get polluted because of human actions two thousand years ago, during the prosperity of the Ancient Roman Empire: it was then that a large number of lead and other harmful compounds began to enter the air. This is reported by specialists in paleoclimatology from Harvard University.

"We have received exhaustive information that human activity leads to continuous pollution of the atmosphere for at least two thousand years. Only periodic reductions in the number of people living on the planet, as well as economic downturn, reduced the degree of pollution to such indicators, which today are called "natural", says Dr. Alexander More from the American University of Harvard.

Over the past few years, scientific experts have been studying in detail the characteristics of human activity and the increase in the number of earth population, focusing on how these factors influenced climatic and environmental changes before the onset of the new epochal period. It is the changes that have occurred in the last two centuries that led to the beginning of so-called global warming and an increase in the content of toxic and harmful compounds in air, water and soil.

For example, last year scientists discovered that the onset of global warming could not be launched in the 50's. Twentieth century, and at the end of the nineteenth century - in this period, European countries and the United States were at the peak of industrial development.

Historians drew attention to other factors and trends in environmental pollution. The population of ancient Rome and other peoples used lead in large quantities: they made dishes, pipes, household items, etc. Scientists pondered how the active use of lead could affect the ecological state of the planet at that time.

Specialists conducted research in the Alps - in places where ice was deposited for many thousands of years. Scientists took samples and determined the content of lead in them to assess the impact of the onset of civilization on the degree of contamination of the Earth.

As it turned out, the air in Europe was contaminated for all two thousand years, excluding minor time periods, when human activity was suspended for one reason or another. Thus, the most prolonged period of "stopping human activity" was the strongest European epidemic associated with the plague. This epidemic lasted from 1349 to 1353 years. According to the research, at this time the smelting of lead has almost completely stopped, because of the plague, at least 1/3 of the total population of Europe was killed, which led to the violation of most trade transactions and financial and industrial ties. A similar situation developed in 1460, as well as in the years 1880 and 1970.

It is possible that lead is not the only toxic element that led to air pollution. A similar toxic effect was manifested during the processing of mercury and sulfur gases.

Last reviewed by: Aleksey Portnov , medical expert, on 16.05.2018
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