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08.06.2017 | Overview of Using Lead Through the History


Various sources assumed the share of guilt in the fall of the Roman Empire due to the use of the lead pipe, Devonshire colic in the 18th century, poisoning from the addition of lead acetate to wine and pediatric lead poisoning. Not only production but also the use of pottery for centuries caused poisoning among the population.

When a piece of pottery covered with lead glaze is not heated enough, which happens in many developing countries, acidic products and liquids, such as salad dressings, citrus juice, and wine, lead to the dissolution of lead in the glaze. Central America and the Mediterranean region were notorious for this source of poisoning. At the beginning of the 20th century, in some regions of the United States, spent automotive radiators were used to distil illegal whiskey, resulting in a lead poisoned drink, which affected many people.

Terracotta lead-glazed lamp
Original source via Metropolitan Museum of Art

In general, in the early 20th century, in many developed countries, there was practically no concept of industrial medicine. Painting with white lead paint and scraping the old caused a lot of serious cases of lead poisoning around the world until in 1921 the International Labor Conference organized in Geneva a meeting on the adoption of the White Lead Convention.
The Convention led to a ban on the use of white lead in the coloring of premises in a number of countries, for example, in Sweden and Czechoslovakia in 1923. However, in 1970 in the US only four states and 10 municipalities had laws or regulations prohibiting the use of lead paint indoors. The federal law came into force only in 1972.

Suggestion for house painting with National Lead Company's brands of pure white lead and tinting colors [back]
Photo by Boston Public Library

Till this moment rather strange "preventive" measures were applied. One of them was to give a worker’s 1 liter of milk a day. This was based on an undocumented belief that calcium in milk slows down the absorption of lead and that this food can possibly reduce toxic effects. In the 1950s, chelating agents such as British Anti-Levisite (BAL), CaNa2EDTA and d-penicillamine were used as therapeutic agents against lead poisoning.

New methods for measuring lead content in biological media were developed in the late 1960s. First, the dithizone method and later atomic absorption spectrophotometry gradually converted the lead definitions in the blood into a cornerstone of medical surveillance for workers exposed to lead. The term "biological monitoring" was introduced.

And today lead, as a constituent element of production, is widely distributed, but its concentration is insufficiently low limits for a person to remain healthy. At present, clinical lead poisoning in the developed world is an event that will not be left without the attention of the world community, and all thanks to routine technological control.

One of the most accurate measurements of the mass concentration of lead in solid and liquid samples is carried out by dint of GFAAS with Zeeman correction of non-selective absorption. Specialists of «Lumex Instruments» have been creating complex solutions on the basis of the «MGA-1000» device, and methodological support. To ensure that while analyzing the sample a lead was not lost, the specialists of our company developed technological solutions, which you can read about here.