Science Book, August 16 (EFE). – If it’s in the air – and on your mobile phone – it will end up in your bones. This is the main conclusion of research that has shown that industrial production of minerals has direct consequences for our health and our body.
The study, published Monday in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology and carried out by researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU), the University of Vienna and the Sapienza University of Rome, shows the relationship between metal production rates and exposure to toxic lead in humans.
To conduct the research, the team — led by Yigal Erel of Heliopolis University’s Institute of Geosciences — examined human remains from a cemetery in central Italy that had been in uninterrupted use for 12,000 years.
Thus, they found that as global production of lead grew, so did the rates of lead absorption 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 2500 with the making of the first coins, and reached its peak in Roman times, before declining during the Middle Ages.
A thousand years ago, lead production grew again, spurred by silver mining in Germany and the New World, and later by the development of the Industrial Revolution.
The presence of lead has already been recorded in environmental files, such as glaciers or lake sediments, but concentrations of lead in human bones and teeth rarely tell the outside story of lead production rates around the world, until now.
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 matches the global lead production rate.
“The bottom line: the more lead we produce, the more likely people are to absorb it into their bodies. This has a very toxic effect,” Erell 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 study’s conclusions 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 adverse health effects of toxic metal contamination,” advises Earl.
Although the people most directly affected by these risks are the people most exposed, i.e. miners and workers in recycling facilities, lead permeates our entire daily lives in the form of batteries and solar panels that deteriorate over time and release its toxicity into the air. We breathe and the land we cultivate.
“Any expansion in the use of metals must be accompanied by industrial hygiene, ideally through safe recycling of the metals and further environmental and toxicological considerations in selecting metals for industrial use,” advises Earl.
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