Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Benefit to Lead?

By now we've all heard about the controversy of lead in lipsticks and other cosmetic items. And you may be familiar with the fact that in ancient Rome and Egypt, lead compounds were used as primary ingredients in makeups. But you may not know that the Egyptians actually used lead for its benefits. Wait, benefits?

Some ancient texts suggest that lead was used purposefully to treat eye illnesses and skin ailments. So researchers in France decided to delve further in to this mystery. They took samples of ancient makeup from Egyptian tombs and put it under the microscope. An ultramicroelectrode, to be exact. They found that the Egyptians actually synthesized special lead salts, laurionite and phosgenite--not found in nature--specifically for cosmetic use.  Researchers tested these compounds and saw that once applied to skin, the lead ions created a stress response in the keratinocytes (a type of skin cell). Under this stress, the skin cells created an abundance of nitrogen monoxide--a compound known to stimulate a general immune response. Through this this mechanism of stimulating the immune system, researchers concluded these lead compounds may have actually been used to treat eye and skin conditions. (Source)

What does this mean for us in modern times? Not much. There's no action or change I'm suggesting. I'm not proposing the use of lead makeups or medicines and am not contesting the fact that it's a harmful substance. I just found the study to be interesting, historically and biologically, an insight in to the complex mechanisms of the body and its reactions to the toxins around us.


Unknown said...

Very interesting! Thanks for sharing

J.M. Ney-Grimm said...

I once blogged about this too, although in a less technical way. I was singing the praises of Bubble & Bee products! ;)

Anonymous said...

Yes, that was super interesting. Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing. It's fascinating to learn that past civilizations, especially in Africa, did in fact have scientists, doctors and astronomers as we do today.

Unknown said...

Always fascinating to learn more about the sciences and medicine practiced by ancient civilizations, especially those in Africa. We continue to connect with their scientists, doctors and astronomers discovering a level of interest in these fields that we mostly associate with modern times.