Exposure to Cadmium and Lead in an Agropastoral Iron Age Population

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Abstract

Metals present in the environment (soil, water and atmosphere) can affect food safety and human health through bio-accumulation and bio-magnification phenomena. Human exposure to the metals may take place through the environment and by ingesting contaminated food (including water), determining harmful effects usually detectable over the long term. Starting with the Industrial Revolution, local occurrence and concentration of metallic contaminants in the environment have been exponentially increasing: it has been assessed that, nowadays, daily absorption of lead, by North American people, is noticeably greater than that during prehistoric times.

In this study, we measured concentrations of cadmium, lead and zinc in 153 bone samples (femurs) of Iron Age inhabitants of Central Italy (Abruzzo): the Samnites from the Alfedena Necropolis (2600–2400 bp). The data found are in agreement with the results of similar published studies. Heavy metal concentrations varied widely among samples with the exception of zinc. A significant difference (p same Mann–Whitney test <0.05) in cadmium bone levels was found between male (0.08–1.8 mg/kg, median 0.31 mg/kg) and female samples (0.05–1.3 mg/kg, median 0.53 mg/kg). Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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