Read the full study by K.R. Miner et al. (Science of the Total Environment)
- For the first time, PFAS were found in snow and meltwater on Mt. Everest from below the Base Camp to the Balcony.
- Samples from the Base Camp to the Summit are the first to characterize chemical deposition on the mountain.
- Combined atmospheric and local direct deposition elevate concentrations above other alpine regions.
- Human pollution impacts on Mt. Everest are both visible and chemical.
Mt. Everest, one of the most coveted climbing mountains on earth, also contains the highest altitude chemical contamination on land. For the first time, meltwater and snow samples from Mt. Everest’s Khumbu Glacier were analyzed for “forever chemicals” per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Our research team utilized solid-phase extraction (SPE) and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to identify pollutants sampled from Everest Base Camp, Camp 1, Camp 2, and Everest Balcony. From the 14 PFAS compounds tested for, we found perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA) in Mt. Everest snow and meltwater. The highest concentrations found were 26.14 ng/L and 10.34 ng/L PFOS at Base Camp and Camp 2, respectively. However, PFAS species were seen within 1–2 orders of magnitude in all sampling sites with detection, potentially suggesting a widespread presence on the mountain. Our samples are the highest altitude PFAS samples ever retrieved and indicate the need for further sampling both on Mt. Everest and in the below-glacier watershed.