According to some scholars, toxic exposures contributed to the collapse of the Roman Empire. Roman rulers were poisoned by water cisterns and food containers fashioned from lead. These extreme exposures could have gradually made the Patrician families deranged and infertile – leaving no competent leaders to run the Empire. A similar fate seems to have befallen the Samurai regime in Japan. When bones from a castle burial were analyzed, lead concentrations in the children suggested severe lead poisoning. With damaged mental abilities, the Samurai descendants would likely have been incapable of dealing with political crisis, possibly contributing to the downfall of the Shogunate.
Today, our brains are being put to another extreme test, this time from a combination of toxic chemicals that includes mercury, arsenic, pesticides and persistent industrial compounds. The hidden threat that we now face is what I call chemical brain drain. It is insidious and silent, as it is usually not linked to any medical diagnosis, and it is serious, as the combined deficits are affecting the brains of a whole generation of children, upon whom our future relies.
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