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September 1, 2018 Sweet Wine

September 1, 2018

Greetings from the Bluff Park Back Porch, way up yonder on Shades Mountain (1,109′) in Alabama:

More nasty stuff that man kind torments itself with ???

Sugar of Lead: A Deadly Sweetener

Did ancient Romans, Pope Clement II or Ludwig van Beethoven overdose on a sweet salt of lead?



Like other lead(II) salts, lead(II) acetate has a sweet taste, which led to its historical use as a sugar substitute. The ancient Romans, who had few sweeteners besides honey, would boil must (grape juice) in lead pots to produce a reduced sugar syrup called defrutum, concentrated again into sapa. This syrup was used to sweeten wine and to sweeten and preserve fruit. It is possible that lead(II) acetate or other lead compounds leaching into the syrup might have caused lead poisoning in those who consumed it.[7] Lead acetate is no longer used in the production of sweeteners because of its recognized toxicity. Modern chemistry can easily detect it, which has almost completely stopped the illegal use that continued decades after legal use as a sweetener was banned.[8]

Historical incidents

The earliest confirmed poisoning by lead acetate was that of Pope Clement II who died in October 1047. A toxicological examination of his remains conducted in the mid-20th century confirmed centuries-old rumors that he had been poisoned with lead sugar.[9] It is not clear if he was assassinated.
In 1787 painter Albert Christoph Dies swallowed, by accident, approximately 3/4 oz (20 g) of lead acetate. His recovery from this poison was slow and incomplete. He lived with illnesses until his death in 1822.[10][11]
Although the use of lead(II) acetate as a sweetener was already illegal at that time, composer Ludwig van Beethoven may have died of lead poisoning caused by wines adulterated with lead acetate (see also Beethoven’s liver).[12][13]
In the 1850s, Mary Seacole applied lead(II) acetate, among other remedies, against an epidemic of cholera in Panama.[14][15]


Lead(II) acetate, as well as white lead, has been used in cosmetics throughout history.[16]
It is still used in the USA in men’s hair colouring products[17] like Grecian Formula. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers this use safe because human testing showed lead did not enter the bloodstream and was not shown to be absorbed.[6] It was, however, banned in cosmetics by Health Canada in 2005 (effective at the end of 2006) based on tests showing possible carcinogenicity and reproductive toxicity,[18] and it is also banned in the European Union[18] and has been on the California Proposition 65 warning list as a carcinogen since 1988.[19]

Medical uses

Lead(II) acetate solution was a commonly used folk remedy for sore nipples.[20] In modern medicine, for a time, it was used as an astringent, in the form of Goulard’s Extract, and it has also been used to treat poison ivy.[21]
How did lead poisoning affect the Roman Empire?
When in ancient Rome, don’t drink as the Romans do. High-born Romans sipped beverages cooked in lead vessels and channeled spring water into their homes through lead pipes (pictured). Some historians argue that lead poisoning plagued the Roman elite with diseases such as gout and hastened the empire’s fall.

Lead pipe plumbing for fresh water underneath Rome

Did Lead Poisoning Bring Down Ancient Rome?
Science.  By Thomas Sumner Apr. 21, 2014 , 3:00 PM

Lead Acetate, the First Artificial Sweetener.

“The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away. Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them.”
Jeremiah, 6:29-30
Sorry, no pictures of Roman parties (orgies).  Ours are much better.

>    Personal Note.  I quite using Greecian Formula (to darken my graying hair) when I saw that it contained lead.  Any of my eccentricities can probably be blamed on this, makes for a good excuse.  R

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