Cans cleared in lead poisoning mystery

Lead poisoning from poorly made cans didn’t wipe out an expedition of Arctic explorers more than 150-years-ago, according to new research.

Franklin’s lost expedition was an ill-fated British expedition of 128 men onboard two ships led by Captain Sir John Franklin (pictured) that left England in 1845 and never returned.

The accepted theory had been badly soldered food cans gave the men lead poisoning leaving them prone to disease and the elements.

Numerous rescue parties were launched in the years following the loss of the ships but all that was found was the bodies of some of the first men to die.

The bodies were buried earlier in the voyage on an island with a letter explaining the two boats had become stuck in ice in the Canadian Arctic.

Examinations of the bodies in the 1980s produced the theory of lead poisoning, due to high levels found in their bones, from cans of food which weakened the men and ultimately killed them.

However, new research by chemists at the University of Western Ontario in Canada says this was unlikely.

Their paper concludes so much lead was in the bones that it couldn’t have built up in the short period of time the sailors would have been eating out of cans.

Chemistry professor Ron Martin, who led the research team, admitted though we’d probably never know why the team died.

He said, “The time, from departure to death, just wasn’t long enough for lead from the tins to become so dominant throughout all the bones.”

The findings were revealed in the paper titled “Pb distribution in bones from the Franklin expedition: synchrotron X-ray fluorescence and laser ablation/mass spectroscopy,” published in Applied Physics A: Materials Science and Processing.

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