×

Announcing: Slashdot Deals - Explore geek apps, games, gadgets and more. (what is this?)

Thank you!

We are sorry to see you leave - Beta is different and we value the time you took to try it out. Before you decide to go, please take a look at some value-adds for Beta and learn more about it. Thank you for reading Slashdot, and for making the site better!

3D Maps Reveal a Lead-Laced Ocean

samzenpus posted about 9 months ago | from the keeping-the-magic-out dept.

Earth 266

sciencehabit writes "About 1000 meters down in a remote part of the Atlantic Ocean sits an unusual legacy of humanity's love affair with the automobile. It's a huge mass of seawater infused with traces of the toxic metal lead, a pollutant once widely emitted by cars burning leaded gasoline. Decades ago, the United States and Europe banned leaded gas and many other uses of the metal, but the pollutant's fingerprint lingers on—as shown by remarkably detailed new 3-D maps released this week. The 3D maps and animations are the early results of an unprecedented $300 million international collaboration to document the presence of trace metals and other chemicals in the world's oceans. The substances, which often occur in minute quantities, can provide important clues to understanding the ocean's past—such as how seawater masses have moved around over centuries—and its future, such as how climate change might shift key biochemical processes."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

fukushima (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46363893)

didnt they say the oceans were vast and this stuff would mix up nicely?!

Re:fukushima (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364681)

Of course the oceans are big enough, if you could guarantee even mixing. You could dump a thousand years worth of uranium produced at curring mining rates, and only change the amount of uranium in the oceans by 1%. Lead might be a tad different even in the idealistic assumption of perfect mixing, considering we mine up hundred times as much a year as uranium, and the oceans normally have a factor of hundred less lead than uranium, and we're a lot less careful with lead.

Re:fukushima (5, Insightful)

Evtim (1022085) | about 9 months ago | (#46365505)

"The solution to pollution is dilution" - man, that was one big lie, wasn't it? It started dying with this [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minamata_Bay].

More than 15 years ago I was involved in such study and already at that time it was understood that the water might be safe for drinking but should you eat fish from it you are in trouble. The operative word here is "bio accumulation". I was working on a project commissioned by the [much smaller] EU at the time to readjust the safety levels of heavy metals in marine and river waters. We worked along the south-west coast of France and north-west cost of Spain. You know what's funny - because of the importance of our finds which would lead to legislation change we worked "under cover" .I am not kidding. A fishing boat was used with an analytical lab on board but we would always say on the radio we were fishermen. Even to the people that direct the traffic in harbors. We were told not to say to anyone what we research. I think the very fact that such measures were taken on a EU project no less, says something...something that is not nice.

However, your particular anger is not warranted in this case, IMO. The radioactive material form that disaster is truly insignificant compared to the heavy metal pollution from everything else. I am not saying that we should close our eyes and mouths of course...

Re:fukushima (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46366575)

"The solution to pollution is dilution" - man, that was one big lie, wasn't it?

The solution to pollution is dilution. The problem is knowing what amount of dilution is reasonable, and at some industrial levels there is going to be waste that will do damage because you can't achieve that dilution in any reasonable or safe way. It doesn't mean you can dump what you want where you want, but there are some cases where it won't matter. If you dump a pound of sodium chloride in the ocean, it won't be a big deal as long as you don't hit some animal on the head, and it is not something you're going to repeat thousands or millions of times. Dumping a pound of lead is a different story, since it could end up being a significant change for a kilometer away from where you dump it. This is important for making realistic environmental limits on what people and companies will do, increasing the likelihood that laws will be followed. A company can't go dumping millions of pounds of salt or fertilizer in a river, but there is some level where the amount added is insignificant with realistic mixing, whether that amount is parts per thousand or parts per billion. It is the difference between telling them to take reasonable efforts to clean up or filter out problematic stuff, versus spending insane amounts of money to make sure everything is at homeopathic levels.

Avgas (5, Interesting)

Nerrd (1094283) | about 9 months ago | (#46363899)

Nearly the entire worldwide fleet of piston powered aircraft still burn leaded gas.

Re:Avgas (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 9 months ago | (#46364021)

The EPA is expected to start the phase-out of leaded AVGAS as soon as next year.

Re:Avgas (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 9 months ago | (#46364431)

Oddly that coincides with the phase-out of human life.

Re:Avgas (1)

Ken_g6 (775014) | about 9 months ago | (#46364033)

Is it really leaded gas, or just gas with a lead substitute? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Avgas (1)

Warphammer (610896) | about 9 months ago | (#46364077)

100LL is using real lead, at least for now. It's a matter of a lot of testing over many different engine types to make sure alternatives work properly.

Re:Avgas (1)

Nerrd (1094283) | about 9 months ago | (#46364129)

It is tetraethyl lead - just like cars used.

Re: Avgas (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364875)

A lot of cars still use leaded gas! South America and elsewhere... Aviation is a huge polution problem... I came to this realization when planes where grounded on sept 11th 2001, after about 24 to 48 hours the air was much cleaner smelling! It's in humanities DNA to self Darwinize... No point in fighting it! I'd give our species less than two centuries of survival at best and quite possibly far less. The ostrich syndrome of those that believe humans are too small to affect the environment are already dwindling in numbers.

Re:Avgas (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364097)

My Eyes Are BLEEDING. It Forced Me Into Beta.

Re:Avgas (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 9 months ago | (#46364323)

That's true but the amount of leaded gas burned by piston powered aircraft it pretty minimal. Old lead paint on walls is a far bigger problem.

Re:Avgas (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 9 months ago | (#46364955)

That is a very tiny amount compared to what autos produced.

Re:Avgas (1)

hax4bux (209237) | about 9 months ago | (#46366173)

So what? Look up, what do you see? Empty sky. Look down, what do you see? Cars.

The scale is not even close.

Re:Avgas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46366513)

I saw one helicopter, R22. It's burning leaded gas at rate of around 10 GPH. Well, that fact only cost me $70,000 to learn.... Also, got to put a lot of lead into the air around Los Angeles. But the chicks still dig it when you take out the license even if I can't pass medical hopefully only temporally.

Not everything observed... (1, Insightful)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | about 9 months ago | (#46363917)

...is because of human activity.

Without some sort of baseline of ocean lead levels before the industrial age, it's difficult to assert that the levels observed are caused by humanity in any specific percentage.

Where's the proxy for historic ocean lead levels pre-1850?

Re:Not everything observed... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46363977)

...is because of human activity.

Without some sort of baseline of ocean lead levels before the industrial age, it's difficult to assert that the levels observed are caused by humanity in any specific percentage.

Where's the proxy for historic ocean lead levels pre-1850?

Exactly what I was thinking. Zero point in doing research on how the ocean has acted in the past naturally when we humans keep fucking it up with toxic sludge.

Re:Not everything observed... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 9 months ago | (#46364043)

...is because of human activity.

Without some sort of baseline of ocean lead levels before the industrial age, it's difficult to assert that the levels observed are caused by humanity in any specific percentage.

Where's the proxy for historic ocean lead levels pre-1850?

Who else was adding tetraethyllead to their fuel supply, alien invaders?

Seeing concentrations which dilute along known currents isn't very iffy stuff, even a kid dripping oil in a stream of water can witness this effect.

I wonder how much of that lead comes back in fish - the 'brain' food.

Next week news - Zombies in peril, main food source contaminated by lead. Zombie health institute issues warnings, zombies lurch in protest.

Re:Not everything observed... (1, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | about 9 months ago | (#46364151)

Uh, the article said "lead," not "tetraethyllead" [sic].

Guess what? That lead came from the earth - humans dug it up. It's not like alchemy is real.

Are sub-sea geothermal vents spewing lead in some form? Are there exposed veins of lead on the ocean floor? Is it from fishing weights or ballasts of sunken ships?

If you can't answer all those questions and other similar, your comment is less than worthless.

Re:Not everything observed... (4, Informative)

ackthpt (218170) | about 9 months ago | (#46364849)

Uh, the article said "lead," not "tetraethyllead" [sic].

Guess what? That lead came from the earth - humans dug it up. It's not like alchemy is real.

Are sub-sea geothermal vents spewing lead in some form? Are there exposed veins of lead on the ocean floor? Is it from fishing weights or ballasts of sunken ships?

If you can't answer all those questions and other similar, your comment is less than worthless.

Well it's obvious you didn't read it, particularly the bit about a concentration diluting along known currents. Guess those were some big words and you might have had trouble with them.

Tetraethyllead was added to gasoline as a catalyst. Once the fuel was burned the catalyst exited into the atmosphere (are you keeping up?) where it could land anywhere or go into solution where rain fell, taking it through drains, watersheds, down rivers and into the ocean. Spotting it in the water column is pretty easy. Spotting it in your water and food, well, that's a less heterogeneous environment. But with all the fuel burned with that additive, it's somewhere, it doesn't go POOF and magically disapper (out of sight, out of mind.) Got that?

Re:Not everything observed... (4, Insightful)

PraiseBob (1923958) | about 9 months ago | (#46364051)

If you read the article, you might see this paragraph: "Still, the maps show there are places where lead contamination is a continuing problem. Off the southern tip of Africa, surface waters with relatively high traces of lead are flowing into the South Atlantic from the Indian Ocean. That’s probably due to the continuing use of leaded gasoline in parts of Africa and Asia"

There appears to be a direct correlation... Guess it wasn't so difficult after all?

Re:Not everything observed... (-1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 9 months ago | (#46364167)

Seeing as we have the ability to detect traces of a fart on Jupiter, I think we should EXPECT to see traces of just about everything we do in the oceans at some level or another. Naturally, some of those chemicals may have properties that cause them to concentrate in certain regions.

Call me when the concentration becomes a problem.

Re:Not everything observed... (1)

ThatAblaze (1723456) | about 9 months ago | (#46364211)

*ring ring*

Hello? Mr D? Are you there?

Ohh.. that's right.. it became a problem.

And you died. Oops.

Re:Not everything observed... (2)

ackthpt (218170) | about 9 months ago | (#46364857)

*ring ring*

Hello? Mr D? Are you there?

Ohh.. that's right.. it became a problem.

And you died. Oops.

Lead in food leads to neurological disorders, retarding intelligence, impairing motor functions, etc.

Now, I'm not saying there's evidence of that in any responses here ...

Re:Not everything observed... (1)

pspahn (1175617) | about 9 months ago | (#46364923)

I would assume it also ends up concentrating at higher levels as you work up the food chain, just like mercury and things like ciguatoxins.

So I guess the take-away here is that we shouldn't cannibalize anyone that is a fish eater in South Africa.

Re:Not everything observed... (1)

ThatAblaze (1723456) | about 9 months ago | (#46365067)

Lead in food leads to neurological disorders, retarding intelligence, impairing motor functions, etc.

I refuse to let the validity of your facts detract from the validity of my humor.

Re:Not everything observed... (1)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | about 9 months ago | (#46364327)

I'd have more faith in that if there was a larger network of observations. 787 sites to cover the entire atlantic ocean seems a bit thin.

Correlation isn't causation, of course :)

Re:Not everything observed... (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about 9 months ago | (#46364427)

I was wondering why it only appears in the known Ocean Currents.

Is this a case of looking for your lost keys under the streetlamp because its easier to see there?
Do they not find any evidence in areas away from the currents?

Maybe they didn't take random bottom readings anywhere else. Or maybe it settled out everywhere else but
within the currents. Oh, that's it. Its Settled Science.

Re:Not everything observed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364719)

Deep water away from various currents mix and exchange very slowly with surface water, and can take 100-1000+ years to mix.

Re:Not everything observed... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 9 months ago | (#46364885)

What I do know of marine research comes from a friend who worked a couple years at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) They'd go out to see for weeks at a time, visiting various sensors to gather data. Some of this data comes from deep in the water column. Aggregating from stations, over several years can paint a pretty clear picture. 700+ stations is pretty significant. A lot more telling than a statement like "Gee, I don't think that's very much" - based upon feck all knowledge of the science, equipment, procedures and knowledge.

Re:Not everything observed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364747)

plus the battery fires....

Re:Not everything observed... (2)

JazzHarper (745403) | about 9 months ago | (#46364357)

Specifically, Algeria, Iraq, Yemen and Myanmar are known to still sell gasoline containing TEL at the pump.

Re:Not everything observed... (2)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 9 months ago | (#46364963)

And you could still buy 4 star leaded fuel in the UK in 2011. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new... [dailymail.co.uk]
The US went lead free decades ago, Europe a few years ago.

Re:Not everything observed... (2)

fridaynightsmoke (1589903) | about 9 months ago | (#46366601)

And you could still buy 4 star leaded fuel in the UK in 2011. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new... [dailymail.co.uk] The US went lead free decades ago, Europe a few years ago.

How did you come up with that when the article states it was banned in the UK in 1998?

Re:Not everything observed... (4, Informative)

Solandri (704621) | about 9 months ago | (#46365453)

While I don't disagree with the notion that leaded gasoline is a major contributor to lead in the environment, I was a little curious how much naturally-occuring lead there is.

Uranium has a 4.5 billion year half-life, and the end-product of its decay chain is lead. Since the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, you should expect to find about equal amounts of uranium and lead in the environment overall (I'm not an expert on how minute quantities of these elements act in seawater). The trace uranium in seawater is about 3.33 parts per billion [ieee.org] .

According to TFA (which didn't give exact numbers), "the lead concentrations are roughly equivalent to what youâ(TM)d get if you dissolved a small spoonful of frozen orange juice in 200 Olympic-sized swimming pools". An Olympic-sized swimming pool [wikipedia.org] is about 2.5 million liters. According to Google, 1 teaspoon in 2.5 million liters is about 2 parts per billion [google.com] .

So the amounts of lead they're detecting are about 0.01 parts per billion, or two orders of magnitude less than the amount of naturally-ocurring uranium in seawater. The charts linked in TFA bear this out. Clicking through random charts, lead concentrations [egeotraces.org] are around 25 pmol/kg, while uranium concentrations [egeotraces.org] are around 3 nmol/kg (3000 pmol/kg).

So (1) for whatever reason uranium dissolves in seawater much more readily than lead, and (2) the amounts of lead they're detecting are minuscule even by "trace elements" standards.

Re:Not everything observed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364107)

I bet that absolutely no professional scientists who have put years of fulltime work into researching this topic have ever thought of that.

Re:Not everything observed... (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 9 months ago | (#46364247)

Thank goodness we have all these armchair experts to correct those worthless braindead scientists. My goodness, between the experts on hydrology, climatology, physics, biology and all those other disciplines who always seem so quick to poke holes in theories without RTFAing or the papers the articles are based on, why Slashdot is a regular renaissance man's hangout.

Clearly we have no need of academia at all. We can shut down the universities and the research facilities, because here on Slashdot we have geniuses of unfathomable brilliance.

Re:Not everything observed... (1)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | about 9 months ago | (#46364333)

Well, if the "science is settled", we don't need any more research, right? :)

But seriously, a network with only 787 observation sites? Isn't that a bit thin for the entire atlantic ocean?

Re:Not everything observed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46365517)

Well, if the "science is settled", we don't need any more research, right? :)

But seriously, a network with only 787 observation sites? Isn't that a bit thin for the entire atlantic ocean?

Hey, $300 million only goes so far these days. Be happy they managed to get 787 sites..

Re:Not everything observed... (1)

StefanJ (88986) | about 9 months ago | (#46364683)

Based on these comments, Slashdotters are also experts on moving goal posts.

Re:Not everything observed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364481)

I bet that absolutely no professional scientists who have put years of fulltime work into researching this topic have ever thought of that.

Well then instead of gambling, go read the paper. If it's not mentioned, it wasn't accounted for, and deserves to be pointed out.

Re:Not everything observed... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364147)

If only professional scientists were as dumb as your strawman. http://eaps-www.mit.edu/paoc/research/trace-metals-group-ed-boyles-lab

"Almost all of the lead in the ocean derives from human emissions from high temperature industrial activities (smelting, coal combustion, incineration, etc.) and leaded gasoline utilization. Most of this lead was emitted in the past 100 years with peak U.S. emissions in the 1970's.

We can estimate Pb for the preceding two centuries using Pb in annually-banded corals from Bermuda. The emitted 206/207, 208/207 and 206/204 Pb isotope ratios have evolved during the past 120 years so that it is sometimes possible to "date" the Pb in an environmental sample by establishing a unique combination of isotope ratios. Varved sediment cores from Rhode Island and British Columbia show the regional differences in Pb emissions."

Re:Not everything observed... (1)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | about 9 months ago | (#46364359)

Assuming we've properly modeled the isotope ratios, this is great - now where's the graph of the data? Perhaps we have more than three coring sites besides Bermuda, Rhode Island and British Columbia?

Do we have it for the 787 study sites in the article mentioned?

Seems like a lot of holes in that cheese :)

Re:Not everything observed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364819)

Assuming we've properly modeled the isotope ratios

Modeled? The isotopic ratios in man made lead is not some obscure model based on measurements in a couple of esoteric papers. The ratio of isotopes in lead has direct consequences for its use in several fields, including nuclear engineering and precision instrumentation. Understanding and using this is the reason ancient Roman lead can be worth a lot of money to manufacturers of various kinds of radiation detectors..

Re:Not everything observed... (1)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | about 9 months ago | (#46365431)

I'm talking about modeling the movement of the isotopes. The assumption is that isotope ratios change over time due to specific causes - but that isn't always clear. For example:

http://wattsupwiththat.com/200... [wattsupwiththat.com]

"But if you examine the above equation, you will see that the C13 index that is reported can go down not only from decreasing C13 content, but also from an increasing C12 content (the other 98.9% of the CO2)."

"BOTTOM LINE: If the C13/C12 relationship during NATURAL inter-annual variability is the same as that found for the trends, how can people claim that the trend signal is MANMADE??"

While certainly our analysis of isotopes in the lab is pretty fool proof, our assumptions as to where and which isotopes come from and end up in the real world is based on some assumption that might not be justified.

Re:Not everything observed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46366033)

Why would you give credibility to some superfluous wrong interpretation by a non-expert and not to the tons of data and studies made by people who actually knew what they were doing?

Re:Not everything observed... (1)

expatriot (903070) | about 9 months ago | (#46366081)

Why would you give credibility to some superfluous wrong interpretation by a non-expert and not to the tons of data and studies made by people who actually knew what they were doing?

Because he has some sort of agenda (probably a religious one)

Re:Not everything observed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364469)

Without some sort of baseline of ocean lead levels before the industrial age

Especially since the Roman Empire caused massive amounts of lead-based pollution long before the Industrial Age.

Re:Not everything observed... (1)

Vintermann (400722) | about 9 months ago | (#46365813)

I hope this is satire to mock climate deniers.

Romans (1)

Etherwalk (681268) | about 9 months ago | (#46363921)

Lead! The Romans used the stuff for pipes, and so did we in the fifties. We use graphite in pencils now, so we don't use it there. Where do we use lead these days? Nuclear containment and superman films? (And probably illegal Manhattan plumbing repairs, where legacy systems would be impractical to replace)

Re:Romans (4, Informative)

Alsn (911813) | about 9 months ago | (#46363953)

Pencils never contained lead though. It's a misunderstanding from when graphite was discovered back in the 16th century and people thought it was a type of lead and called it "black lead" or "plumbago".

Re:Romans (2)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 9 months ago | (#46364079)

Pencils never contained lead though. It's a misunderstanding from when graphite was discovered back in the 16th century and people thought it was a type of lead and called it "black lead" or "plumbago".

Actually the paint that was used on pencils contained lead in the past. Considering how many kids chewed on pencils in grade school, this wasn't the best idea.

Re:Romans (4, Funny)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | about 9 months ago | (#46364459)

It's OK, those kids studied law and became politicians.

Oh wait...

Re:Romans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46365217)

However, the taste does make one think, so it's kind of a wash right?

Re:Romans (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 9 months ago | (#46364347)

I find it hard to believe that anyone could confuse graphite for anything reassembling a metal.

Re:Romans (2)

pspahn (1175617) | about 9 months ago | (#46364949)

Do you? [google.com]

I'm not sure about the reassembling part. I don't think it is capable of that without maybe some extreme heat and pressure or something.

Re:Romans (1)

dugancent (2616577) | about 9 months ago | (#46364073)

The only common and modern lead items I that I can think of are fishing sinkers, car batteries and tire balancing weights. I've seen electronic devices with lead to give weight.

Re:Romans (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 9 months ago | (#46364379)

Until the recent explosion of LCD, TV screens contain a lot of lead. (CRT)
Now they're worthless, people are throwing them away.

Re:Romans (2)

dead_user (1989356) | about 9 months ago | (#46364751)

Boat keels are usually made of lead. In order to counter the weight above CG, massive amounts of weight are added to the keel as low as possible. Sailboats use more lead per foot than powerboats but powerboats and vessels such as barges are absolutely massive. Boats are basically massive Weeble Wobbles. http://www.ebay.com/bhp/weeble-wobbles/ [ebay.com]

Being at the lowest part of the vessel and constantly in the water, keels are prone to blistering, leaching, and sometimes they just fall off. All this is just left in the sea. The other amazing thing is the amount of copper these boats go through. Most bottom paints are 50-75% copper. All the copper is leached out in about 2 years in southern climes, 5 years in northern. Most 35' sailboats take 1.5 - 2 gallons per bottom. That's 30 lbs of copper per sailboat every two years. Gone. Wow. A typical boat also eats about 5 pounds of zinc a year in sacrificial anodes, but zinc is cheap, so who cares.

Re:Romans (1)

ThatAblaze (1723456) | about 9 months ago | (#46364139)

We still use lead in some electrical solder, although it is rather discouraged today. Most old electronics, therefor, contain led in their circuitry and thus have a chance of releasing it when they are disposed of. Some vehicle's windshields have lead embedded into the glass. Exercise equipment can sometimes contain lead weights.

It pops up all over the place. It's not quite as harmful, though, if you aren't burning it.

Re:Romans (2)

QilessQi (2044624) | about 9 months ago | (#46364217)

It's doubtful that the Romans introduced much lead into the water. from http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~... [uchicago.edu] :

...rain water is slightly acidic, having dissolved carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to form a weak solution of carbonic acid, which in turn reacts with calcium hydroxide to form calcium carbonate. which .Rome is situated on sedimentary calcareous soil, and the frequent cleaning of limestone encrustation (which accumulated approximately one millimeter per year) suggests that deposits of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the pipes protected against corrosion and insulated against the introduction of lead into the water

 

Re:Romans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364513)

It's doubtful that the Romans introduced much lead into the water. from http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~... [uchicago.edu] :

...rain water is slightly acidic, having dissolved carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to form a weak solution of carbonic acid, which in turn reacts with calcium hydroxide to form calcium carbonate. which .Rome is situated on sedimentary calcareous soil, and the frequent cleaning of limestone encrustation (which accumulated approximately one millimeter per year) suggests that deposits of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the pipes protected against corrosion and insulated against the introduction of lead into the water

The Roman Empire stretched far beyond Rome, just FYI, and they smelted a LOT of lead all over the place. The lead contamination they cause was not runoff from corroding pipes, it was from the actual smelters themselves. Lead used to be used for all sorts of things, pewter was a lead-clay mixture for example, and lead itself was considered almost as useful as gold in many applications. The point being that our civilization was not the first to use lead widely nor pollute widely, but many people who get worked up about the environment tend to not know much about history prior to the Industrial Revolution.

Re:Romans (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 9 months ago | (#46366305)

The Roman Empire stretched far beyond Rome, just FYI, and they smelted a LOT of lead all over the place. The lead contamination they cause was not runoff from corroding pipes, it was from the actual smelters themselves.

You don't know the half [io9.com] of it.

The Romans are gone (2)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 9 months ago | (#46366409)

The Romans used lead to flavor food. But they ended up collapsing. We can understand that now. Lead in gasoline explains the crime wave of the seventies. http://www.motherjones.com/env... [motherjones.com]

"Once widely emitted"? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46363937)

a pollutant once widely emitted by cars burning leaded gasoline. Decades ago, the United States and Europe banned leaded gas and many other uses of the metal

Do you really think the US and Europe account for the majority of vehicles? I'm pretty sure places like China and India wouldn't give a shit about using leaded gas and leaded metal still - their environmental standards aren't exactly great compared to Western standards (and despite our own flaws and corruption, we at least still have better environmental standards so no US bashing please).

Re:"Once widely emitted"? (2)

Warphammer (610896) | about 9 months ago | (#46364025)

You essentially can't use leaded gas if you care more than the slightest bit about air quality. Lead deposits wreck catalytic converters, which are important for cleaning up exhausts. And there are adequate if not great replacements for lead's anti-knock qualities... And we're really good at making hardened valve seats these days, so you don't need that either.

Re:"Once widely emitted"? (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about 9 months ago | (#46364045)

RoHS effect... When you can't sell something to the US or Europe, you tend to use the same things that you sell to them, because producing two things costs more.

Re: "Once widely emitted"? (1)

qinjuehang (1195139) | about 9 months ago | (#46364153)

China's CO2 gas emissions per capita are about a third of that from the US. If you consider that China's industry probably contributes significantly more than their automobiles, it shouldn't be hard to realise that the summary was probably right. In America almost every family can afford cars. Not true in most Asian societies. (Yes there are exceptions, such as Singapore, hence I said most.)

Re: "Once widely emitted"? (2)

FunkDup (995643) | about 9 months ago | (#46364527)

In America almost every family can afford cars. Not true in most Asian societies. (Yes there are exceptions, such as Singapore, hence I said most.)

I don't know how many people in Singapore can actually afford a car but I can tell you that the certificate required to own a car costs $93k for 10 years and the cost of the car can be as much as triple that of a "Western" nation. A lot of people catch cabs.

Re: "Once widely emitted"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364783)

China has over three times the population of the US, so it still produces a lot more pollution. They are also the top automaker in the world, so their automobile use is increasing. They had to shut down factories during the Olympics in order to have somewhat decent air quality. Even though LA has shitting air quality by US standards, they didn't have to shut the city down in 1984 when it had the Games.

Re: "Once widely emitted"? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 9 months ago | (#46366311)

China has over three times the population of the US, so it still produces a lot more pollution. They are also the top automaker in the world, so their automobile use is increasing.

They also make castings for engines assembled in America by people like International-Navistar. Hey, International is right there in the name, don't look so surprised! Fact is, most of our pollution has been exported to China. Unfortunately, it comes right back. Fortunately for me, it comes back more to SoCal than NoCal. Most days there's more Chinese pollution in LA than local stuff. The CARB worked, but it didn't solve the global problem.

Re:"Once widely emitted"? (3, Informative)

Algae_94 (2017070) | about 9 months ago | (#46364237)

a pollutant once widely emitted by cars burning leaded gasoline. Decades ago, the United States and Europe banned leaded gas and many other uses of the metal

Do you really think the US and Europe account for the majority of vehicles?

Yes I do [who.int] . It's not extremely lop sided, but there are more vehicles in Europe and the US combined than there are in China and India combined. I'd also throw all the cars in Japan under the US/Europe column for not using leaded gas.

Dredge it up, bottle it, sell it (2)

ackthpt (218170) | about 9 months ago | (#46364009)

Slusho [slusho.jp] - You Can't Drink Just Six!

What's the worst that could happen?

<_< [rogerebert.com]

leaded gas (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 9 months ago | (#46364117)

I never understood why leaded gasoline was cheaper than unleaded back when both were for sale. They actually added the lead. I also don't understand why lead additives are still allowed.

Re:leaded gas (1)

JazzHarper (745403) | about 9 months ago | (#46364303)

In the 1920's and 30's, "ethyl" (leaded gasoline) was the more expensive grade. By the 1940s, virtually all gasoline contained TEL and manufacturers designed engines with higher compression ratios to take advantage of the fuel. So, by the 1970s, unleaded gasoline required more expensive octane boosters to work in modern engines.

Today, lead additives for vehicle fuel are banned in almost all countries.

Re:leaded gas (1)

gewalker (57809) | about 9 months ago | (#46364313)

If you don't use lead, you have to raise octane in ways that are more expensive, more highly refined gas and more expensive octane raising additives are your options, both are more expensive than using lead.

Back in the 70's, there was an additional factor. Existing infrastructure used lead to raise octane rating -- there were transition costs and some scarcity during the transition away from lead. And of course, as a new product, you can generally charge that otherwise.

Re:leaded gas (1)

Carnildo (712617) | about 9 months ago | (#46365103)

I never understood why leaded gasoline was cheaper than unleaded back when both were for sale. They actually added the lead.

Because "unleaded" is a misleading name. There have been three major types of gasoline over the years:

1) Raw gasoline: unmodified crude-oil distillates. This is one of the original automobile fuels, and had a varying octane rating; this made building high-performance engines difficult.

2) Leaded gasoline: crude-oil distillates with Tetraethyl lead [wikipedia.org] added to raise and stabilize the octane rating.

3) Unleaded gasoline: crude-oil distillates with additives other than tetraethyl lead used to raise and stabilize the octane rating.

any way to pump that lead-infused seawater into th (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364149)

just asking

Bullets (1, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | about 9 months ago | (#46364243)

Looking at TFA maps, the highest concentration appears to be in the outflow from the Mediterranean. That's probably a result of all the wars fought over there.

Re:Bullets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46365613)

Looking at TFA maps, the highest concentration appears to be in the outflow from the Mediterranean. That's probably a result of all the wars fought over there.

No, it's the large concentration of coal fired plants. Once they survey the Indian Ocean, they'll find even higher concentrations of lead around the Chinese coast.

Re:Bullets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46366083)

It might also be because the Nile Volga Don and Danube drain into it (among others) and much of the water evaporates, so concentrating levels. There's actually a net inflow from the Atlantic, so even without river runoff the low-level outflow is more concentrated.

Case Study in Environmental Law (5, Informative)

retroworks (652802) | about 9 months ago | (#46364273)

Banning lead gasoline - Best environmental law ever passed. Lower blood lead levels in kids, higher test scores, less crime in cities.

Banning lead in solder - Worst environmental law ever passed. Lead in solder never escaped in the environment, was at worst destined for a lined landfill. Was replaced by dredging coral reef islands for TIN and SILVER (the alternatives to lead). Tin and Silver have very low recycled content, the lead was 85% recycled content.

I'm very pro environment, very pro scientific method. The unintentional consequences of the success of lead gasoline bans were stupid tin mining in coral islands to divert solid solder from rich nations lined landfills.

Re:Case Study in Environmental Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364547)

They simply haven't gone far enough; ban electronics. No need for tin and silver then.

Re:Case Study in Environmental Law (0)

jafac (1449) | about 9 months ago | (#46365829)

150 years from now, we'll be saying that banning CO2 was the best environmental law we ever passed.
Or, we'll be saying, "maybe tomorrow, if we can finish crossing this wasteland, we'll find an abandoned town we can scavenge some food from"... "or at least some ammo."

Re:Case Study in Environmental Law (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 9 months ago | (#46365951)

Don't believe the hype. EU and Japanese companies have managed to source alternatives to leaded solder without dredging coral reef islands. As far as I can tell it's just unscrupulous people making money out of the situation and some propaganda from opponents of RoHS, and hardly common practice for supplying lead free solder to the billions of products that use it every year.

Re: Hype? Case Study in Environmental Law (1)

retroworks (652802) | about 9 months ago | (#46366363)

Businessweek - A third of all tin comes from Bangka. http://www.businessweek.com/ar... [businessweek.com] Bangka tin mines were opened to supply deleaded solder. The point is that the environmental cost of extraction is nearly always more significant than the environmental cost of exposure. Environmental laws that consider only the "end of pipe" without considering lifecycle costs are to environmentalism what mercury laxative was to medicine (very effective if all you care about is an excellent crapping experience)

80% of lead supply is recycled content, the alternative (tin) must be mined. I thought the hype was that we'd be significantly safer with solid tin solder in lined capped landfills than we would be with leaded solder in lined capped landfills. What ROHS did was take a very minor, negligible risk from rich nations and displace the environmental costs to a hugely impactful practice (tin dredging) in developing nations, and label it "green" and give environmental awards with no study of the consequences upstream.

Want an organic, non-toxic raw material? Baby seal pelts. If all you care about is the final disposal effect, mercury made a great laxative. Primum non nocere

perhaps not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46365957)

Lead was used in gasoline, in-part, as a lubricant in the parts of the engine where you did not want oil. It reduced the wear-and-tear on engines when the tech was older and there were not many good alternatives... and lots of Americans lost economic value they never recovered when they were railroaded into the 1st generation of cars that required "unleaded" gas. Those cars were often crappy machines (that cost as much or more than the older ones but did not last as long) that needed to be replaced early; cars are one of the biggest capital expenses families face after houses and that was money those families never got back (leaving them less for education, retirement, etc).

Also, many tests of kids have been dumbed-down over the past 40 or so years. They started by dumbing-down tests in the K-12 schools, then during the nineties they dumbed-down the SAT. They subsequently even re-scaled the SAT scores (1600 USED to be a perfect score). You simply cannot do a straight 1964-to-2014 comparison now for example. Yes, you MAY find lower lead levels in kids blood these days but you also probably find lower levels of radioactive substances (we tested lots of nukes above ground in the 1950's and into the 60's) and indeed MANY other things have changed (like moms all-over America stuffing their kids full of multi-vitamins) and you COULD even point out that [1] kids used to be under-nourished in poor neighborhoods but now tend to be over-nourished thanks to government food programs (food stamps, school lunches, etc) and [2] kids are drinking lots more fizzy drinks now than they used to ... so maybe fizzy drinks are having a positive effect.

I hate the way our modern societey has been replacing science with statistics; it's a dumbing-down of science that disregards the causation---corellation problem and can lead to LOTS of junk conclusions if not very carefully controlled for

Re:perhaps not (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 9 months ago | (#46366299)

Lead was used in gasoline, in-part, as a lubricant in the parts of the engine where you did not want oil.

For valves and seats. You can say it with me: valves and seats. No other part of the engine but the cylinder walls themselves are touched by fuel, and they are not in the best case. They, of course, are lubricated by oil. Tetraethyl lead's primary purpose, though, was as an octane booster. Today we use ethanol or MTBE. MTBE is almost magically toxic, it's worse than lead in spills and it is readily absorbed through skin. It improves combustion, however, so when burned it's clean, unlike burning lead. Ethanol is hygroscopic so it makes gas spoil faster, and it attacks natural seals, and you can't use as much of it in fuel without significant changes so you can't diddle octane with it as much as using MTBE.

In fact the lead didn't "lubricate" the seats, it protected them in other ways. Now we have hardened valves and seats and there is no. reason. whatsoever to run leaded fuel. Hardened valves and seats were made available for all the interesting engines of the day, or implemented by manufacturers themselves. The Ford 351W predates the changeover but was still used after. Mopar built a whole fleet of new engines around that time anyway, for example moving from the big-block 318 to the small-block 318. Chevrolet updated their engines without problems. You're talking nonsense. Chevy was still making the 350 until just a decade ago or so.

pretty map meaningless without scale (1)

confused one (671304) | about 9 months ago | (#46364609)

Pretty heat map means nothing without a scale. It shows some outflow of some amount of lead based chemicals (paint, tetra ethyl lead, metallic lead, whatever); but, without a scale there is no indication of the amounts. It might be parts per trillion, DAQ counts above measurable background derived from spectral analysis using a crappy camera, % change in mass relative to a neutron star, anything really.

Re:pretty map meaningless without scale (1)

director_mr (1144369) | about 9 months ago | (#46365043)

They clearly state how much lead is shown: "The lead concentrations are roughly equivalent to what you’d get if you dissolved a small spoonful of frozen orange juice in 200 Olympic-sized swimming pools, Noble estimates" Of course, they never identify how much lead is in frozen orange juice, so I take my statement back.

Re:pretty map meaningless without scale (1)

Tailhook (98486) | about 9 months ago | (#46365333)

anything really

That's why they put words next to the pictures.

The lead concentrations are roughly equivalent to what you’d get if you dissolved a small spoonful of frozen orange juice in 200 Olympic-sized swimming pools

The "small spoonful of frozen orange juice" is too ambiguous to use directly, so I'll just fill a teaspoon with solid lead. Given 5.014×10^34 atoms of water in 200x 2.5E6 L Olympic pools (Wikipedia) and 1.62E23 atoms of lead in a teaspoon, you have 3 atoms of lead per trillion molecules of water.

Sure to panic homeopaths everywhere. The EPA actionable drinking water limit for lead is 15 parts per billion; three orders of magnitude higher.

Re:pretty map meaningless without scale (1)

Solandri (704621) | about 9 months ago | (#46365471)

Here's a random cross section [egeotraces.org] from the site linked to in TFA. Lead concentrations average about 25-30 pmol/kg. Which if I've done my math right (1 kg of water = about 55 moles of H2O) is about 0.5 parts per trillion.

More opinioned rubish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46364691)

What biased rubbish. No scientific proof of anything other than the obvious angry, mentally disturbed writer.

Long live Slashdot.

Beware of history repeating!!! (0)

zaroastra (676615) | about 9 months ago | (#46365157)

Unnecessary worldwide poisoning with lead through car gasoline (known to be neurotoxic for hundreths of years) still happens today in some parts of the world.
Read http://www.todayifoundout.com/... [todayifoundout.com] to see how we really don't deserve the name gaven to our species...

Nowadays, jet fuel, maybe even on purpose for solar management geo engineering (even unilateral as per CFR recomendations), is leaking all kinds of bizarre particulates all over the world.

There is a heated discussion on whether what we now see almost on a daily basis are contrails or chemtrails. Who cares! Just don't poison us!
What matters is that this is relatively new worldwide phenomenon ( less than a decade), and tests have proven that air quality is degrading everywhere.
Why not being more proactive, and make sure that whatever they add to the jet formulas is safe?
Look up, next time you see a nice sun shiny day turn to a misty, smoggy, gray day from air traffic, remember it took almost a century to ban lean in car gasoline. Do you feel safe?
Z

Climate change? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46365491)

Sorry, this started out interesting, but then the summary said something about climate change. Now I have a hard time believing lead even exists. And if you prove to me that it does, I will claim that volcanoes are spewing out a hundred times more of the stuff than all human activities. And if you tell me that is bullshit, well, then I'm already over in some other thread doubting lead's existence again.

Hyperbolic rhetoric ALWAYS = BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46365913)

First, we know nothing of the pre-industrial-age state of the oceans.

Second, lead occurs naturally in the Earth and water that filters through that Earth picks up lead (anybody here from LEADVILLE Colorado?)

Third, what are the levels that are demonstrated to be harmful (by having some human actually hurt, rather than by spooking a "soccer mom" and causing her to feel anxious) and what are the levels detected in the ocean? Once youve compare these two items, then ask the question that matters: What would it take to change things enough to matter, and would that be cost-effective?

Fourth, As our instruments get better and better, and as researchers seeking grants get more desperate to find ecological disasters that require the IMMEDIATE, EMERGENCY deployment of research grants, we can find traces of "harmful" things everywhere up to and including even NASA's best cleanrooms.

Fifth, there's no proof that our use of lead caused the levels seen in the ocean... it could simply be that our mining activities churned-up more lead-laden soils and rain waters washing through that made it to the sea (as most water does). We used to use lead solder to solder water-carrying pipes all over the world... that's an IMMENSE quantity of water that went through pipes at some point before going to the seas that might have picked up lead THAT way. I'm NOT insisting that either of these are what happened, just asserting that there might be any number of explanations for some portion, or all, of the lead detected that do not fit the narrative being pushed by these people.

Guess what, boys and girls... NEARLY EVERYTHING (including pure H2O) will kill you if you injest too much. More importantly: human beings DID NOT EVOLVE IN A SCIENCE LAB CLEAN ROOM WITH WATER PURIFIERS AND HEPA AIR FILTERS. In fact, it is entirely possible that if you raised a human in a perfectly clean pure environment with perfect clean air, perfect clean food and perfect clean water, that human would die a horrible death. We already KNOW that children raised with "dirty" pets are less vulnerable to allergies (for example) and AFAIK nobody has documented and proven just how much of the various substances we need, like various minerals, we absorb in various ways from our environment without even knowing it. Our modern society has spent BILLIONS of dollars scrubbing lead from electronics, without any evidence that anybody had ever been hurt by the lead in (for example) their computers (which, unlike leaded gas, involve no combustion) based primarily on [1] the harm poor children suffered from EATING leaded paint and [2] the harm it was asserted would occur when we put that lead back into the ground (where it originally CAME from) when those electronics get destroyed. Remember: lead is an element; it's NOT manmade, and (unlike some elements) it occurs in large deposits all over the planet. NOBODY considered that it might have been cheaper and more beneficial to spend fewer dollars simply lifting children out of poverty, or teaching people to feed their hungry kids so they would not peel paint off the walls and eat it. Nobody wanted to face the fact that lead-free solder is a poor replacement for leaded-solder, but this will probably get some notice when an airliner goes down someday with avionics that shorted-out from tin wiskers (those tiny crystallized structures that grow in lead-free electronics and form new random cat-whisker-like connections).

and they know? (1)

SuperDre (982372) | about 9 months ago | (#46366483)

And they know for sure it's because of the burning of leaded fuel and not a natural cause? This is just speculation that it's from polution, it might be true, but it also might not.. no real evidence to prove it..

Yeah, right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46366559)

I want to see some proof of their claim. Typical B.S. where somebody finds something and blames it on destructive humans. Yet these greenies aren't willing to 'off' themselves to make the planet better for everyone else. Al Gore is a good example.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?