"250,000-Year-Old Neanderthal Teeth Reveal Evidence of Lead Poisoning"
Two teeth from Neanderthal children who lived 250,000 years ago in what is today France contain evidence of repeated exposure to high levels of lead, a metal known to have adverse effects on the development of the brain and nervous system, according to new research. “Traditionally, people thought lead exposure occurred in populations only after industrialization, but these results show it happened prehistorically, before lead had been widely released into the environment,” said co-author Christine Austin, PhD, assistant professor of environmental medicine and public health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. This evidence allowed the team to relate the individuals’ development to ancient seasons, revealing that one Neanderthal was born in the spring, and that both Neanderthal children were more likely to be sick during colder periods. The findings are consistent with mammals’ pattern of bearing offspring during periods of increased food availability.
—Christine E. Austin, PhD, Assistant Professor, Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
— Manish Arora, BDS, MPH, PhD, Edith J. Baerwald Professor, Vice Chairman, Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai