Link #31: The Acid in River Rio Tinto Is as Strong as the Acid in Your Stomach!

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KDD Rio Tinto

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Link #31: The Acid in River Rio Tinto Is as Strong as the Acid in Your Stomach!

KDD Rio Tinto
Image credit: Javier Santos Romero cc2.0

As explained earlier, the Spanish Armada of ships combined with the French under Napoleon Bonaparte fought a battle with the British naval juggernaut that was Admiral Nelson off the south western coast of Spain in Cape Trafalgar.

In the south western region of Spain is something that is far more dangerous than the Spanish Navy. We give you the River Rio Tinto which is almost as acidic as the acid in your stomach!

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The Acid in the Red River Rio Tinto

Andalusia
Andalusia. Image credit: Daniel Enchev cc2.0

It’s true. The acidity of water in River Rio Tinto varies between pH 1.7 and pH 2.5. That’s even more acidic than the acid in your stomach (gastric acid). The gastric acid ranges from pH 1.5 to pH 3.5 and is used for digesting food inside the stomach, particularly proteins and amino acids.

The River Rio Tinto originates from Andalusia’s mountains. Its acidic quality makes it unviable for humans to touch it for the fear of any number of health risks. The River Rio Tinto, however, has a rich history because it is also seen as a crucial component of the Bronze and Copper Ages.


Why is the Rio Tinto so Acidic?

rio tinto mine by Robyn Jay CC BY-SA 2.0
rio tinto mine by Robyn Jay CC BY-SA 2.0

The acidity of the Rio Tinto is a result of a number of things. The foremost of these is that it has been the site of mining for various human civilisations in history. It has been mined for a number of minerals such as iron, copper, gold and silver.

The Rio Tinto region was first identified and mined by the Tartessans and the Iberians in 3000 BC. As the Rio Tinto region became famous in the world, it drew other cultures as well. First to come were the Phoenicians in 2800 BP who were followed by the Romans in 2000 BP. Visigoths and Moors also mined there in 1600 BP and 1300 BP respectively.

In case you’re wondering what BP is, it stands for Before Present. This unit of measuring time is used when the time period cannot be recognised by radiocarbon dating.

As the region was mined, mining related waste was dumped into the river which made it acidic and also gave it its distinctive red colour.


Bacteria Live in That Acid!

KDD Rio Tinto
Image credit: Javier Santos Romero cc2.0

In recent years, evidence has been discovered that states that the acidity of the Rio Tinto is a result of more than human mining. In fact, scientists now believe that the real culprits for the acidity of the Rio Tinto are bacteria which live under its surface.

These are unique bacteria in the water that feed on the sulphide and iron minerals in rocks on the riverbed of the Rio Tinto by the process of oxidisation. Because of these organisms, scientists from all over the world have compared the environment of the Rio Tinto to those of Mars and Europa, which is a moon of Jupiter.

In fact, currently, the organisms in Rio Tinto are being studied by astrobiologists (people who study life in space). These astrobiologists believe that studying the bacteria in Rio Tinto will give them insights into the existence of life in extreme conditions in space and how it would function.




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Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gastric_acid
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Before_Present
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rio_Tinto_(river)
http://serc.carleton.edu/microbelife/topics/riotinto/index.html
http://listverse.com/2013/10/16/10-bodies-of-water-that-want-you-dead/
http://www.astrobio.net/topic/origins/extreme-life/life-under-a-spanish-red-river/
https://in.news.yahoo.com/lightbox/don-t-tread-here-the-world-s-most-polluted-bodies-of-water-1409958750-slideshow/rio-tinto-spain-photo-1410023493731.html

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