Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 77–85 | Cite as

Lead levels in ancient and contemporary Japanese bones

  • Akira Hisanaga
  • Yukuo Eguchi
  • Miyuki Hirata
  • Noburu Ishinishi


During the past few centuries, lead production, consumption and emissions, to our total environment have increased remarkably. We have determined the concentrations of lead in 41 well-preserved ancient and 11 contemporary rib bones of a mature age (40–60 y), with a view to historically evaluating lead exposure in humans. The oldest Japanese bones (1000–300b.c.) were found to contain a mean of 0.58 μg Pb/g dry wt and a mean molar ratio of lead to calcium of 0.6×10−6, compared with 4.7–5.2×10−6 in the bones of the Edo era (1600–1867a.d.) and contemporary residents in Japan. The mean molar ratios of female bones were always higher than those of male bones for each era. From this fact we may assume that facial cosmetics were one of the main routes of lead exposure among the ancient Japanese, especially those who lived during the Edo era.

Index Entries

Lead levels in ancient bones bone lead levels in Japanese, by era lead concentrations, in ribs lead exposure, in ancient Japanese index of lead exposure lead, in cosmetics and lead burden, in ancient bones 


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Copyright information

© The Humana Press Inc 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Akira Hisanaga
    • 1
  • Yukuo Eguchi
    • 2
  • Miyuki Hirata
    • 1
  • Noburu Ishinishi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Hygiene, Faculty of MedicineKyushu UniversityFukuokaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Public HealthKokura-kita Health Center in Kitakyushu CityKitakyushuJapan

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