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ERIC Number: EJ920325
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Oct
Pages: 4
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 51
ISSN: ISSN-0021-9584
Lead and the Romans
Reddy, Aravind; Braun, Charles L.
Journal of Chemical Education, v87 n10 p1052-1055 Oct 2010
Lead poisoning has been a problem since early history and continues into modern times. An appealing characteristic of lead is that many lead salts are sweet. In the absence of cane and beet sugars, early Romans used "sugar of lead" (lead acetate) to sweeten desserts, fruits, and sour wine. People most at risk would have been those who consumed the most wine, the aristocracy, although they appeared unaware of the neurological and reproductive damage to themselves and their children. This article focuses on lead use in the Roman Empire as an example and attempts to address some of the major concerns voiced by opponents of Nriagu's 1983 article, published in "The New England Journal of Medicine," on saturnine gout in the Roman Empire. Despite new theories formulated since 1983, current archeological evidence does not match the claims of widespread use of leaden vessels made by historical accounts. Although historical sources are consistent, more substantive archeological evidence is needed before convincing arguments can be made in favor of the role of lead poisoning in the downfall of the Roman Empire. (Contains 2 notes, 1 table, and 1 figure.)
Division of Chemical Education, Inc and ACS Publications Division of the American Chemical Society. 1155 Sixteenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 800-227-5558; Tel: 202-872-4600; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Italy (Rome)