An analysis of ancient skeletons reveals that levels of the toxic metal fluctuate in lockstep with global production.
The results of this new study are a ‘harbinger of things to come’, warn scientists.
Without lead, which is used in the solder that connects the components, our beloved iPhone would be useless. Around 3.5 billion people — nearly half of the world’s population — own an iPhone.
Co-author Professor Yigal Erel said:
Children are particularly susceptible to disorders of the brain and nervous system.
Lead exposure also increases the risk of hypertension and kidney damage in adults and can result in miscarriage or preterm birth.
Prof Erel of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem stated that strict restrictions were necessary.
Israeli and Italian researchers scanned bone fragments from 130 skeletons found in a Rome burial ground. It was in use for 12,000 years — well before the advent of metal production — until the 17th century.
Levels of lead ‘closely mimicked’ the rate at which it was being mined.
As production began and increased, so too did the amount of absorption found in people who lived during those times.
They were not involved in the industry but breathed in the air around them.
Production of lead and other metals will soar further due to demands for electronic devices, batteries, solar panels and wind turbines.
They deteriorate over time and release their toxicity into the air and soil.
Once lead enters the body, it is distributed to the brain, kidneys, liver and bones.
While those most directly impacted by these dangers are those with the highest lead exposure, such as miners and recycling facility employees, lead can be found throughout our daily lives in the form of batteries and the new generation of solar panels, which deteriorate over time and release their toxicity into the air we breathe and the soil from which we grow our crops.
“Any expanded use of metals should go hand in hand with industrial hygiene, ideally safe metal recycling and increased environmental and toxicological consideration in the selection of metals for industrial use,” Erel concluded.