Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Savoring the Danger: Romans Loved Toxic 'Sugar of Lead' Wine

How far did ancient people go to enhance the flavor of their food and drinks? Would they consume toxic substances if it made things a little more appetizing? The Romans did, by adding a sweet version of lead to a beloved beverage. Some scholars even say that it was lead poisoning that caused the famous empire to fall.

New Evidence for High Levels of Lead in Roman Bones
A new study shows that extremely high levels of lead have been found in the bones of 30 people who lived in Londinium (today’s London) during the 1st to 3rd centuries AD. The U.S. Institute for Occupational Health and Safety states that 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of adult blood indicates that the blood has become toxic – the researchers found an average of 14.4 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood in the thigh bones they studied.

Forbes says that the findings suggest “more than half of the population” in Roman-era London were dealing with issues caused by lead poisoning. Could it have come from the metal in their weapons, pipes, or jewelry? Or maybe the lead was directly ingested…

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