How Ancient Roman Aqueduct Builders Used Lead Pipes Without Poisoning Themselves

The ancient Romans were prolific builders of aqueducts and plumbing systems. They made extensive use of lead pipes to transport water, yet somehow avoided poisoning themselves with the toxic metal. How did they accomplish this? Here is an in-depth examination of how the Romans used lead safely:

Why the Romans Used Lead Pipes

The Romans favored lead pipes for several reasons:

So with its availability, durability, and low cost, lead was an obvious choice for Roman aqueducts and plumbing. But how did they get around lead's toxicity?

Limiting Water's Contact With Lead

The Romans took several steps to limit the amount of lead that could leach into drinking water from lead pipes:

So the Romans engineered their systems to allow as little contact between the lead and water as possible. But some lead contamination still occurred.

Mitigating the Effects of Lead

Since lead leaching could not be completely avoided, the Romans took steps to reduce its impacts:

So through hydraulic engineering, chemical additives, and avoiding lead consumption vessels, the Romans found creative ways to use toxic lead safely in their water systems. Their innovations allowed them to take advantage of lead without suffering widespread poisoning.