Taxonomy term

lead poisoning

Antimony may have poisoned Pompeii's drinking water

The ancient Romans may have had advanced water distribution systems, but the water pipes they used were highly toxic. Many Roman-era water pipes were lined with lead, leading some archaeologists to suspect a public health crisis among Romans that may have contributed to the empire’s eventual fall. But others point out that the high levels of calcium carbonate in the Romans’ water supply would have quickly coated the pipes with scale, limiting the exposure of drinking water to lead. However, a new study suggests lead wasn’t the only concern: A sample of pipe from Pompeii dating to A.D. 79 has shown that the Italian city’s drinking water may have also contained alarmingly high levels of antimony. Antimony is an acutely poisonous element, ingestion of which can lead to severe vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and/or death from ailments such as kidney failure and cardiac arrhythmia.

23 Nov 2017

NYC pigeons are canaries of lead poisoning

New research suggests that pigeons might prove useful for tracking high lead levels in cities. “Pigeons breathe the same air, walk the same sidewalks, and often eat the same food as we do. What if we could use them to monitor possible dangers to our health in the environment, like lead pollution?” said Rebecca Calisi of the University of California, Davis, in a statement.

20 Oct 2016

Toxic Gardens: The long legacy of urban lead

Many urban soils, including those in parks, playgrounds and community gardens, remain contaminated with lead from its historic use in gasoline and house paint. But there are ways to mitigate the risks of this legacy lead.
 
11 Oct 2015

Rome's lead water pipes likely not a health risk

Ancient Rome was renowned for its vast and advanced plumbing system that brought freshwater to the city through viaducts and distributed it to the population via metal and clay pipes. But Rome’s civil engineers didn’t know about the neurological effects of lead in drinking water as we do today.

15 Nov 2014

Gold, lead and death in Nigeria

Geology, economics and culture culminate in a perfect storm with deadly results

20 Feb 2012