Mysterious Peruvian meteor illness solved

Photograph by Miguel Carrasco/La Razon/Reuters

Exactly one week ago I wrote a post about the meteor strike in Peru that made the local residents near the impact crater sick. Being the science fiction fan that I am, I immediately began coming up with worst case scenarios: galactic plague; interstellar biological first strike; zombie inducing spores; etc. Well, it turns out that there is a perfectly benign explanation:

The illness was the result of inhaling arsenic fumes, according to Luisa Macedo, a researcher for Peru’s Mining, Metallurgy, and Geology Institute (INGEMMET), who visited the crash site. The meteorite created the gases when the object’s hot surface met an underground water supply tainted with arsenic, the scientists said. Numerous arsenic deposits have been found in the subsoils of southern Peru, explained Modesto Montoya, a nuclear physicist who collaborated with the team.

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