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"Plastic Water Bottles Might Have Poisoned Ancient ..." Topic


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249 hits since 28 Jun 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Tango0128 Jun 2017 3:40 p.m. PST

…Californians.

"You've heard the PSA: Recycle that plastic water bottle, or else archaeologists will be digging it up thousands of years from now. What you probably haven't heard is that archaeologists are already digging up plastic water bottles that are thousands of years old.

This is not evidence of time travel. These bottles aren't clear, and they don't have labels. They're pitch black—made by indigenous tribes who coated large, woven bulbs with a tar-like substance called bitumen. Scientists have known about these bottles for years. But what they hadn't considered was whether these plastic bottles contributed to the declining health in some old societies, like the Native American tribes that once lived off the coast of California. Skeletons dating back thousands of years evidence a mysterious physical decline. A new study, published today in the journal Environmental Health, measured the toxicity of making plastic from oily bitumen, and of storing liquid in the bottles.

Modern water bottles aren't that different, really. But frozen, reused, even microwaved, there's not much risk of the liquid in them leaching enough harmful molecules—BPAs, DEHA, PET—to cause health problems. These ancient plastics are a different story, however. Bitumen is basically asphalt. Yes, basically the same stuff (when mixed with rocks, sand, and aggregates) that is used to pave roads. It's dense, viscous or semi-solid when cool, but turns into a malleable slop when heated up. It also releases chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, known to cause cancer (cigarettes, burning wood, and other smoky sources produce PAHs) and other health problems…"
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Amicalement
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goragrad28 Jun 2017 6:30 p.m. PST

So at the end of the piece the answer is no.

Good click-bait title though…

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian28 Jun 2017 7:54 p.m. PST

I thought it was already established that the Chumash destroyed the local ecology by overharvesting?

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 3:08 a.m. PST

So at the end of the piece the answer is no.

No, the answer was they don't know as they had no soft tissue samples to make an accurate assessment.

I'd like to know what the expected life span of the Chumash was. Would tainted food and water containers have made much of a difference in their mortality and morbidity rates?

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 7:59 a.m. PST

I've read/heard nothing to refute the overall lifespan of premodern humans at c. 25-30 years. Children died like flies before the age of five (Afghanistan is not much better, with half of their children dying by the age of five). So water in a bitumen bottle isn't going to be a noticeable factor here; just one more, relatively minor, danger in an already deadly world.

zoneofcontrol Inactive Member29 Jun 2017 8:12 a.m. PST

So even the ancient civilizations were importing BPA-tainted water bottles from China?!?

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 8:50 a.m. PST

Yes, but the BPA bottles were all intentionally weaponized by European settlers who hadn't been born yet. :)

Dan

goragrad29 Jun 2017 10:07 a.m. PST

One of the outstanding mysteries about these island-dwelling tribes—collectively called the Chumash—is why their overall health began to decline, beginning around 5,000 years ago.

Skeletal remains dating back to that time start to exhibit poor bone quality, reduced stature, smaller skulls, and bad teeth.

The above is the evidence of health problems – all skeletal.

According to Sholts' study, the bitumen those Chumash islanders used to make their bottles didn't leak enough chemicals into their water to account for their skeletal problems. The ones who made the bottles did, but Sholts points out that they probably weren't making the bottles frequently enough to accumulate dangerous levels of the toxins in their bodies.

So not the 'plastic' bottles.

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 11:49 a.m. PST

The above is the evidence of health problems – all skeletal.

Yes it is, but none of it definitively tied to bitumen poisoning.

So not the 'plastic' bottles.

Well, not based on the skeletal evidence. You left out:

"However, she says this study was limited by the fact that they had to do everything by proxy—they only had Chumash skeletons to go by. "It's hard to say how much of any chemical exposure would induce health problems," she says. "It's dependent on dose, duration, and when in the person's life they were exposed." She says the field also needs more research on how to detect toxic organic compounds in bone. Toxicologists mostly concerned themselves with the recently dead, so much of the published research only looks at toxin uptake in soft flesh. "Bones are all I have," she says."

This is the point I brought up. BPA is an estrogen mimic and DEHA is cytotoxic and genotoxic. It's difficult to assess this damage on skeletons thousands of years old.

I've read/heard nothing to refute the overall lifespan of premodern humans at c. 25-30 years. Children died like flies before the age of five (Afghanistan is not much better, with half of their children dying by the age of five). So water in a bitumen bottle isn't going to be a noticeable factor here; just one more, relatively minor, danger in an already deadly world.

That's what I'm thinking too, GWA. Always nice to have the two of us on the same page.thumbs up

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 7:24 p.m. PST

While your argument is correct (I think), the under 5 year old Afghan child mortality rate sounded too high. So I checked……I tend to do that. According to WHO it's closer to 25%, which is still terrible. It is the 3rd highest infant/child mortality after Angola and Sierra Leone. (That is setting the bar high)

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Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 9:37 p.m. PST

Maybe Astan's child mortality rate has improved? I'm going off of information had twenty years ago. I also got this gem, from an Afghan friend of the author (but I don't recall the book!): "If an Afghan makes it to adulthood, the only that will stop him is a bullet." I remember noticing at the time that Astan child mortality was as bad as medieval Europe's. (Now, if I can just remember what book I was reading at the time, I could check my memory…..)

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 10:51 p.m. PST

Mysteries are fun!

Dan

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Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP30 Jun 2017 2:25 p.m. PST

I doubt Afghanistan was worse 20 years or more ago. I think you are correct that the 5 and under mortality rates are similar to those in Medieval Europe. But that is because you are overstating these results. My Google searches show that the European death rates are closer to 30-35% and not half. Just getting the numbers right, but the point remains the same.

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP30 Jun 2017 2:29 p.m. PST

Mysteries are fun!

It's only a mystery to someone who can't think of other sources of death. Like the cartoonist.

VCarter Supporting Member of TMP03 Jul 2017 11:51 a.m. PST

Yes, I guess they should have shown a dinosaur with an evil grin peeking into the cave.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP03 Jul 2017 9:47 p.m. PST

Bowman,

It's a cartoon, as you said, so it's not a research paper or a comprehensive listing of known* causes of death. Then again, that's not really the point of cartoons.

Dan

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP04 Jul 2017 4:53 a.m. PST

It's a cartoon, as you said, so it's not a research paper or a comprehensive listing of known* causes of death.

Thanks for that. That was, of course, never said or inferred. I stated that I thought it was a poor cartoon and gave one reason why.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP05 Jul 2017 1:57 p.m. PST

Not inferred?

"It's only a mystery to someone who can't think of other sources of death. Like the cartoonist."

Dan
PS. You must be a joy to game with. :)

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP06 Jul 2017 5:05 a.m. PST

Dan, seriously.

How is my comment above, taken as inferring that a cartoon should be a "research paper or a comprehensive listing of known* causes of death"?

"You must be a joy to game with."

You should quit projecting and pay closer attention to what is being written. If you want to continue this, perhaps a PM is more appropriate.

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