Lead poisoning  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Lead poisoning is a medical condition, also known as saturnism, plumbism or painter's colic, caused by increased blood lead levels. Lead may cause irreversible neurological damage as well as renal disease, cardiovascular effects, and reproductive toxicity.

Humans have been mining and using this heavy metal for thousands of years, poisoning themselves in the process due to accumulation and exposure. The dangers have also long been known. Reducing the hazard requires both individual actions and public policy regulations. Blood lead levels once considered safe are now considered hazardous, with no known threshold.

Famous cases of lead poisoning

  • Venetian ceruse was a skin whitening cosmetic used by Elizabeth I of England in the 16th century with a base of white lead
  • Much of Ancient Rome's affluent class suffered from lead-induced gout.
  • The Devon colic was caused by the presence of lead in cider in 18th century Devon.
  • Many historians have believed that Ludwig van Beethoven suffered from lead poisoning. This belief has been confirmed in 2005 by tests done at Argonne National Laboratory in the US on skull bone fragments, confirming earlier tests on hair samples.
  • Francisco Goya was considered skilled but unremarkable until he contracted lead poisoning in his late forties and created a series of disturbing aquatint etchings called "the Caprices."
  • George Frideric Handel is believed to have acquired saturnine gout through port wine.
  • Lead shot for hunting ducks and other waterfowl in wetland areas is often restricted because waterfowl can ingest spent shot while feeding from the bottom of lakes and ponds. Non-toxic alternatives such as steel, bismuth or powdered metal/polymer shot is manufactured specifically for use in restricted habitat areas.
  • Operation of a smelter in Trail, British Columbia contributed to higher than average blood lead levels in children living in Trail compared to nearby communities.
  • In 1845, a crew of 128 gathering magnetic data in the Canadian Arctic, under the leadership of John Franklin, are thought to have died from lead poisoning among other things. The canned food on board was sealed in tin cans with lead solder. The lead is thought to have leaked into the food and driven the men mad.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Lead poisoning" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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