Magazine article Science News

Heavy Lead Found in Some French Red Wine

Magazine article Science News

Heavy Lead Found in Some French Red Wine

Article excerpt

Wine drinkers know that the sulfites used as preservatives in wine can cause headaches in some people--even death in some asthmatics (SN: 6/27/87, p.409). But new research shows that an even greater danger may exist in some French red wines: heavy-lead pollution.

Researchers report in the July 7 NATURE that atmospheric pollution caused by the use of leaded gasoline has led to contamination of some Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine. Richard Lobinski at the University of Antwerp in Belgium and colleagues in France examined 19 vintages from the region and discovered organolead concentrations 10 to 100 times higher than those found in drinking water. This particular wine was made from grapes that grew in vineyards bordering French autoroutes A7 and A9.

This isn't the first time lead has leached its way into wine. Lead crystal (SN: 1/26/91, p.54) and lead-foil bottle wrappers (SN: 9/21/91, p.189) have already been named toxic culprits. But Lobinski sees the contamination found in the new study as far more serious because of its organic nature. Organolead differs in composition and toxicity from what Lobinski calls "normal lead, [Pb.sup.2+]." Organolead compounds, he says, are more volatile and soluble in fats and lipids--and consequently more dangerous.

"Organolead can be easily absorbed, especially by [the] brain," Lobinski adds. In addition, organolead is not easily eliminated from the body and can accumulate in the liver and kidneys.

These heavy-lead compounds are absorbed by wine (and not by water) because they bind to the ethanol produced naturally during the fermentation process. …

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