Metal contamination is already reflected in our bones – Science

Science Writing, Aug 16 (EFE) .- If it is in the air -and on your mobile phone-, it will end up in your bones. This is the main conclusion of a research that has shown that the industrial production of metals has direct consequences on our health and our body.

The study, published this Monday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology and carried out by researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU), the University of Vienna and the University of Sapienza in Rome, demonstrates the relationship between the production rates of metals and exposure to toxic lead in humans.

To do the research, the team – led by Yigal Erel of the HU Institute of Earth Sciences – carefully examined human remains from a cemetery in central Italy that had been in uninterrupted use for 12,000 years.

Thus, they found that, as world lead production grew, so did the lead absorption rates found in people who lived in those time periods – even those who were not remotely involved in lead production. simply by breathing the air around them.

Lead production began in the year 2,500 with the making of the first coins, and reached its peak in the Roman period, before declining during the Middle Ages.

A thousand years ago, lead production grew again, driven by silver mining in Germany and the New World, and later by the development of the Industrial Revolution.

The presence of lead had already been recorded in environmental files, such as glaciers or lake sediments, but lead concentrations in human bones and teeth rarely told the outside story of lead production rates around the world. , up to now.

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In this study, scientists analyzed bone fragments from 130 people who lived in Rome, from 12,000 years ago to the 17th century.

By analyzing the elemental composition of their bones, they were able to calculate the level of lead contamination over time and showed that it closely matched the rate of global lead production.

“Bottom line: the more lead we produce, the more likely people are to absorb it into their bodies. This has a highly toxic effect,” Erel warns.

Previous studies have shown that exposure to toxic lead in people, especially children, occurs mainly through diet and air pollution.

The authors believe that the conclusions of the study should be taken into account in the future, given the expected increase in the production of lead and other metals to meet technological and energy demand (electronic devices, batteries, solar panels or wind turbines).

“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 detrimental health impacts of toxic metal contamination,” Erel advises.

Although those most directly affected by these hazards are the most exposed people, that is, miners and employees of recycling facilities, lead permeates our entire daily lives in the form of batteries and solar panels that deteriorate over time and release its toxicity in the air we breathe and the land we cultivate.

“Any expansion of the use of metals must be accompanied by industrial hygiene, ideally by safe recycling of metals and a greater environmental and toxicological consideration in the selection of metals for industrial use”, advises Erel.

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Myrtle Frost

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