Ancient Romans Used Lead As An Artificial Sweetener

Ancient Romans Used Lead As An Artificial Sweetener

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The element lead has an array of wonderful traits: soft and malleable yet heavy and dense; a great conductor of electricity; and more. It is also extremely poisonous—and it took thousands of years for humans to discover this. Ancient Egyptians lined their eyes with lead-based makeup, and people in the 1920s used fuel that contained lead. Some historians even blame the fall of the Roman empire on lead poisoning. The Romans used lead as an artificial sweetener (which they called "sapa"), for plumbing, for eating utensils, and much more.

Lead: The Original Artificial Sweetener

04:54

Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    Lead is heavy and dense, yet soft and malleable. (0:10)

  • 2

    Lead has a naturally sweet taste, which is why ancient Romans used it to sweeten their wine. (1:29)

  • 3

    In 1996, the last leaded gasoline was sold in the U.S. (4:06)

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