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Getting the lead out.

Getting the lead out

Modern Americans and Britons have 1,000 times more lead in their bones than did preindustrial peoples who lived a millennium ago, according to an anthropologist at the University of California, Irvine.

Ten years ago, Jonathon E. Ericson and his colleagues obtained bones after autopsies of modern-day residents of the United States and England, and reported lead levels 500 times higher than those measured in the bones and teeth of Peruvians living 1,600 years ago (SN: 5/5/79, p. 293). They now find lead levels twice as low as those of the Peruvian remains in the bones and teeth of two other ancient groups: Chumash villagers who lived on the California Coast near Malibu around A.D. 1000 and Anasazi Indians who inhabited a site in Arizona between A.D. 1000 and A.D. 1300.

The investigators are meticulous laboratory techniques to minimize the lead added during collection and transport of bones. They calculate lead contamination by comparing the level of lead to calcium in the bone.

Archaeological data of this type establish "natural" chemical levels in bone and are "extremely important to estimate the effects of environmental toxicity in modern society," says C. Rainer Berger of the University of California, Los Angeles.
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Title Annotation:modern day people have 1,00 times more lead in their bones than did preindustrial people
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 21, 1989
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