A new study by Consumer Reports found arsenic levels that exceed federal drinking water standards in 10 percent of the apple and grape juices tested. The group also found excessive levels of lead in 25 percent of grape and apple juices. Arsenic and lead are both poisonous and can cause health problems, especially in pregnant women, infants, and young children. Kids drink a lot of juice—more than one-third drink more than recommended by pediatricians. Although there is no technical limit for these chemicals in most juices and foods, these levels found in five brands exceed the 10 parts per billion allowed in drinking water for arsenic and the 5 ppb allowed for lead (find detailed information about individual brands tested here in a PDF). Consumer Union, Consumer Reports’ advocacy arm, called for the Food and Drug Administration to establish maximal safe levels for these contaminants in juices. Several studies suggests that chronic exposure to arsenic and lead—even at levels below water standards—can result in serious health problems, the group said.
Behold La conversione di San Paolo (The Conversion of St. Paul), one of the masterworks of Caravaggio. The Italian artist of the Baroque era was famous for the chiaroscuro shading—dramatic contrasts of light and dark—evident in this conversion scene. But he was also renowned for living hard and dying young. Four centuries after his death, Italian researchers say they’ve found his bones, and they might know what actually killed him: the lead in his paints.
First, the researchers had to find his remains. Caravaggio died in 1610 in the Tuscan town of Porto Ercole, but his remains were whereabouts unknown until a researcher claimed to turn up a death certificate in 2001 pointing to the crypts there. The bones the scientists found there matched a man aged 38 to 40 (Caravaggio’s age range at his death) and dated to his era. And the DNA matched combinations found in people from the painter’s hometown and sharing his original surname, Merisi or Merisio.
“There can’t be the scientific certainty because when one works on ancient DNA, it is degraded,” Giorgio Gruppioni, an anthropologist on the team, told The Associated Press. “But only in one set of bones did we find all the elements necessary for it to be Caravaggio’s — age, period in which he died, gender, height.” The group says there is an 85 percent probability they are right, though team leader Silvano Vinceti says that is conservative. “We are being cautious,” he said. “As a historian I can say we have found the remains… All evidence concurs” [AP].