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Gender and Hierarchical Differences in Lead-Contaminated Japanese Bone from the Edo Period

Tamiji NAKASHIMA, et al

Department of Anatomy and Anthropology, University of Occupational and Environmental Health. Japan
Gender and hierarchical differences, Human bone, Lead cosmetics, Plumbism, Edo period T. Nakashima, Department of Anatomy and Anthropology, School of Medicine, University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan, Kitakyushu city, 807 Japan
J Occup Healthyear1998Vol40No155-60

Objectives: We analyzed lead concentrations in bones from both genders of the Japanese samurai class and compared findings with those of the farmer and fisherman classes in the Edo period (1603-1867) to clarify gender and hierarchical (or occupational) differences in lead exposure during the Japanese feudal age. Methods: Tests were performed by atomic absorption. Results: Female samurai bones (30.5 microg Pb/g dry bone) showed higher lead concentration than male samurai bones (15.6 microg Pb/g dry bone), but these difference were not significant. This tendency was also seen in the farmer and fisherman classes (male: 1.0 microg Pb/g dry bone; female: 1.7 microg Pb/g dry bone) strong hierarchical differences between samurai and farmer/fisherman classes were seen in both genders in this study (P< 0.001). One of the female samples from the samurai class, who was a daughter of the 6th feudal lord in Kokura (Japan), had 945.5 microg Pb/g dry bone. Conclusion: The samurai class was the aristocrats of society. We assume that facial cosmetics (white lead) comprised one of the main routes of lead exposure among the samurai class, because cosmetics were a luxury in that period.

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