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IDROVO, Alvaro Javier. Possible health effects associated with Pre-Columbian metallurgy. Biomédica [online]. 2005, vol.25, n.3, pp.295-303. ISSN 0120-4157.

In the Old World, several researchers have indicated that adverse health effects were associated with exposure to arsenic, and that this influenced a change in the use of copper-arsenic alloys to others less toxic. This hypothesis was evaluated for three Pre-Columbian metallurgy traditions: Central Andes, Intermediate Area, and West Mexico. The metal artifacts from the Central Andes showed arsenic concentrations similar to those in the Old World (0.5%-1.0%). In the Intermediate Area the values were smallest; however, in West Mexico the arsenic content was very high (7%-25%). In Central Andes arsenical bronze was used initially, but copper-tin alloys when introduced were preferred and distributed throughout the Inca Empire. Osteological and artistic evidences of foot amputations among Moche individuals from Central Andes support the presence of "black foot disease" (a condition associated with arsenic poisoning) among Pre-Columbian populations. In conclusion, the adverse effects of arsenic have been observed in the New World, and that these effects promoted a change toward the use of less toxic alloys.

Palavras-chave : arsenic; archaeology; toxicology; air pollution; health transition.

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