Lead poisoning and the fall of Rome

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states flatly that no lead level is safe for children. As seen in Flint, Michigan., lead can irreversibly harm brain development in children, causing learning disabilities, behavioral issues and other problems. At high levels, it can lead to kidney damage, seizures and even death.


But did lead poisoning in the water supply bring down Rome? This is a heavily debated subject since 1983.


Jerome Nriagu, Canadian research scientist, attempted to examine the diets of 30 Roman emperors and “usurpers” who reigned between 30 B.C. and 220 A.D. Nriagu concluded that 19 “had a predilection to the lead-tainted” food and wine popular then and probably suffered from lead poisoning, as well as a form of gout.


Three decades after Nriagu’s paper, a team of archaeologists and scientists examined how lead pipes contaminated ancient Roman “tap water.” By measuring lead isotopes in the sediment of the Tiber River and Trajanic Harbor, they estimated that the piped water probably contained 100 times as much lead as local spring water.


Read more here: