The uses for lead in ancient Rome varied. It was applied to create cosmetics, jewelry, curse tablets, utensils and cooking pots. Lead was used to create wine and was even used as an artificial sweetener called sapa and defrutum. It was thought to have sweet overtones and to add complementary flavors to their wine and food. In addition, because of the physical properties that lead possesses - it can be made into hard, sharp objects - the people of Rome used it to create pipes. The plumber even takes his name from the Latin word plumbum, meaning lead. The metal lead was an important component of the Roman’s advanced plumbing and water systems. The lead leached from the pipes into the water, thus contaminating the Romans’ water sources. This meant that the people of Rome were drinking toxic water. This was especially true to the aristocratic group in Rome because they were more capable of affording the publishing. Because lead was incorporated all throughout the Roman’s lives, they were exposed to high levels of heavy metal toxicity on a daily basis.
Unlike today, Romans were unaware of the major health implications caused by lead. Children are at an increased risk of lead poisoning. The children of Rome would therefore have experienced learning difficulties, pain, muscle weakness, and possible death. In addition, exposure to lead would have affected unborn babies. There would have been many miscarriages and premature births in Rome, due to lead poisoning. Exposure to even low levels of lead can cause long term damage. Symptoms in adults included: high blood pressure, decline in mental function, pain, memory loss, and mood disorders. Other health effects of lead were fatal, leading to death due to seizures, damage to the nervous system, and kidney failure. Lead poisoning in Rome was an epidemic, taking countless lives.
Many of the effects of lead weakened Rome,