Though climbing Mount Everest has always been potentially dangerous for your health, now even the snow is toxic, report researchers of the University of Southern Maine.
While still a chemistry student, hiker Bill Yeo conducted the survey by collecting samples as he climbed most of the way up Everest. In the journal Soil Survey Horizons, he and his professor Samantha Langley-Turnbaugh report that the higher Yeo climbed, the more contamination he encountered, indicating wind-driven pollution from industrialization in Asia is to blame.
"Arsenic is associated with bladder, skin, and kidney cancer, while cadmium is linked to lung and prostate cancer through the ingestion of contaminated food and water. Both are the by-products of fossil fuel combustion," reports the Soil Science Society of America.
Though there is no indication as of yet that the toxic metals are finding their way down the mountain and into local drinking water, one-tenth of the world’s population relies on mountain snowpack as their sole source of fresh water, according to the press release for the study.
"Understanding the amount of pollutants in soil and snow is critical to maintaining the quality of alpine water sources," the scientists report.
For now, hikers in the Himalayas are advised not to drink melted snow at altitudes.