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Lead Poisoning - Was it from Wine?
Lead Poisoning - Was it from Wine?
A couple was found dead possibly from lead poisoning due to a pewter decanter containing wine. How could this happen?
Mysteries of Science
Dr. Gilleo
Mysteries of Science by Dr. Ken Gilleo
Dr. Gilleo is a chemist, inventor and general problem solver. Ken has been tracking industrial forensics and collecting case histories for decades. These cases are taken from the vast world of industry and commercial enterprise.

Check out Dr. Gilleo's eBook, 100 Mysteries Solved by Science. We hope you enjoy these case histories. You need not be an engineer or scientist to understand the problems and appreciate the solutions.
Transcript
An older couple was found dead in their bed in a California suburb with no indication of foul play. Toxicology results showed a toxic level of lead in both of their blood streams.

Lead poisoning was the likely culprit. However, lead is an unlikely poison for homicides or suicides.Two wine glasses were found in the living room containing traces of lead.

A pewter decanter of wine was still on the table. The wine showed significant lead content. The investigator believed the lead was coming from the container.

The manufacturer confirmed the wine vessel was almost certainly made of pewter that contained lead. What caused the lead from the pewter container to absorb into the wine?

Here's the rest of the story.


While wine does not extract lead from pewter, or even from a lead container, acids will. The wine was probably starting to go bad producing vinegar, or acetic acid.

The acid would react with lead, or its oxide, to produce the soluble compound, lead acetate, also called sugar of lead because of a sweet taste.

Anyone drinking the poisonous liquid would not be aware of the problem and the slow acting poisonous lead would not give a hint until it was too late.

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