The researchers found that the cause of death of many British sailors in the eighteenth century could be the lead accumulated in the rum by distillation through a lead coil.
A group of archaeologists from the University of Lakehead studied 31 the skeleton of the English seamen, exhumed from the cemetery of the Royal naval hospital in Antigua. Using x-ray fluorescence analysis, scientists have proved that the cause of death of sailors was lead poisoning, which was used extensively at that time, even in the production of dishes. Most likely, a lethal dose they got, drinking rum, which was distilled using lead coils, according to Forbes.
During the French revolutionary wars in the late XVIII century England sent troops to capture the French colonies in the West Indies, as well as to hold positions in the Caribbean. These missions were accompanied by multiple losses, tens of thousands of people died from yellow fever and from poisoning. The researchers analyzed the exhumed skeletons of sailors to determine the cause of their death.
The results of x-ray fluorescence analysis showed that the sailors probably died from poisoning by the salts of lead. In the bones of the skeletons discovered lead concentrations up to 336 ppm, despite the fact that the normal level of 5 to 30 ppm. In acute lead poisoning occur abdominal pain, in the joints, convulsions, fainting. Lead can accumulate in bones, causing their gradual destruction, to concentrate in the liver and kidneys.
Lead is known to mankind since ancient times and because of the ease of production and processing has often been used in various fields of human life. In ancient Rome lead was doing even the water pipes, not knowing about the toxicity of the salts of this metal.
In the eighteenth century, British sailors were driven ROM using alembic lead coils instead of copper because of their greater availability. It is the use of rum, obtained in this way, most likely, was the cause of their death. Rum was issued to sailors daily use.