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Quantifying Pre-Industrial to Mid-Late 20th Century Anthropogenic Lead and Mercury Pollution in Caribbean Marine Environments

Author(s): Felicia Pena ; Nicholas Herrmann ; Molly Zuckerman ; Evan Peacock

Year: 2015

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Various lines of evidence indicate that levels of anthropogenic pollutants, such as lead and mercury, have increased in terrestrial and atmospheric environments since the early 19th century and the advent of industrialization. While exposure to these two heavy metals is a global concern, this study focused primarily on marine environments located in the Caribbean. Using ICP-MS, this study aimed to detect and quantify anthropogenic pollutants, specifically lead (Pb) and mercury (Hg), using skeletonized remains of sea turtles as biological proxies for environmental quality. Archaeologically-derived (n=5) and mid-late 20th century (n=6) Hawksbill and Green turtles were used to create a chronology of pollution exposure in Caribbean marine environments and to establish a pre-industrial baseline for pollution exposure, useful for gauging how human activities in the Caribbean, namely industrialization and tourism, have changed mercury and lead concentrations over time. Results from this study are integral to informing and improving strategies for research and training related to stable monitoring of patterns of anthropogenic pollutants affecting the health and conservation of large marine ecosystems in the Caribbean.

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Quantifying Pre-Industrial to Mid-Late 20th Century Anthropogenic Lead and Mercury Pollution in Caribbean Marine Environments. Felicia Pena, Molly Zuckerman, Nicholas Herrmann, Evan Peacock. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398145)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -90.747; min lat: 3.25 ; max long: -48.999; max lat: 27.683 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America