Jerusalem, Palestine — Toxic metals, such as lead, are key components in technology that people use regularly around the world. However, harmful exposure to lead is not new. In fact, a new study revealed that humans have been absorbing these minerals into their bodies for thousands of years. Researchers in Israel discovered lead contamination in human bones 12,000 years ago. They warn that modern technology may make the problem worse.
A team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has examined human remains in a cemetery in Italy that was in use until the 17th century. From the fragments of 130 people at the site in Rome, researchers analyzed the composition of the chemicals in each person’s bones. Their findings reveal that levels of lead contamination in human bones closely mirror historical rates of lead production worldwide over the centuries.
The study authors add that as the world began to mine for rare earths and produce more goods with them, people’s absorption rate of lead also increased. This is true not only for people with Most exposure to lead, but also people who simply inhale it.
The long lead history with the human race
Today, many people think of lead as something you find in paint and metal tubes. However, the first pioneering boom occurred 2,500 years ago with the production of coins. According to researchers, this period reached its peak during the Roman Empire before declining again during the Middle Ages. About 1000 years ago, lead production rose again, due to silver mining in Germany. Then, the expansion of the Americas and the Industrial Revolution sent lead production (and exposure) to new heights.
“This documentation lead contamination Human history indicates, remarkably, that many of the estimated dynamics in lead production are replicated in human exposure. Thus, lead contamination in humans has closely followed their lead production rates,” explains Professor Yigal Erel in a Media release. “Simply put: the more lead we produce, the more likely people are to absorb it into their bodies. This has a very toxic effect.”
New technology may make lead exposure worse than ever
Despite global regulations banning the use of many harmful toxins, the study authors say that even today’s «cleanest» products may increase human exposure to toxic metals. The team specifically notes Those electronic devicesBatteries, solar panels and even wind turbines are in great demand and could increase global mineral pollution levels. Lead exposure occurs in a variety of ways, from our diets, Earl says. for air pollutionto absorb the soil.
The study’s lead author warns that «the close relationship between lead production rates and human lead concentrations in the past, suggests that without proper regulation we will continue to experience the adverse health effects of toxic metal pollution.»
Earl adds that even green technology, such as solar panels that deteriorate over time, release their toxic elements In the air we breathe when it collapses. The finding may lead to future studies to find more lead in our bones than ever before.
«Any expanded use of metals must go hand in hand with industrial hygiene, ideally safe metal recycling, and increased environmental and toxicological considerations in selecting metals for industrial use.»
The study appears in the journal Environmental science and technology.