Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lead leads to insanity

Worth a read in full.  

Laurence Knight writing at BBCMag:
For millennia lead  has held a deep attraction for painters, builders, chemists and winemakers - but it's done untold harm, especially to children. And while it's no longer found in petrol, you've still got several kilograms of it in your car..........

........Lead found dozens of uses throughout the Empire. Being apparently insoluble, it was used to line aqueducts and make water pipes - the word "plumber" derives from the Latin for lead, plumbum.......

..........Unfortunately, a leaded crystal wine decanter turns out to be a singularly bad idea, according to Andrea Sella, chemistry professor at University College London, especially if the wine (or sherry, port or brandy) is held in it for a long time.

"The lead slowly dissolves out into the wine itself. The intriguing thing is that you get a compound that used to be known as 'the sugar of lead'."

This compound, lead acetate, not only looks like sugar, it also has an intensely sweet flavour, Prof Sella explains.

"One of the curious things is that the drink that you would put into your decanter would over time gradually become sweeter."

But lead, of course, is also toxic. Once inside the body, it interferes with the propagation of signals through the central nervous system, and it inveigles its way into enzymes, disrupting their role in processing the nutritious elements zinc, iron and calcium.......

........It was another American, the paediatric psychiatrist Herbert Needleman, who was responsible for finally getting the lead taken out of petrol.

In the 1970s and 1980s he discovered that even very low levels of lead exposure did irreversible damage to infants, including unborn babies. As they grew up, their IQs were lower, they had trouble concentrating, and often dropped out of school.

As young adults, data suggested, they were more likely to become bullies, delinquents, criminals, teenage parents, drug addicts, unemployed, and so on. Needleman concluded that the lead had permanently weakened their ability to resist dangerous impulses.........

.........One such is economist Jessica Wolpaw Reyes of Amherst College in the US. "When we had leaded generations in the 1960s and 1970s, they would have been far more likely to commit crimes, especially violent crimes, in the 80s and 90s," she says.

She found that the timing of when petroleum companies phased out leaded petrol in individual US states between 1975 and 1996 mapped closely to when their respective crime statistics peaked two decades later..............

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.