Possibly, Michelangelo, VanGogh and other Famous Artists lead poisoned

December 6, 2013 2:44 pm

A recent article suggested famous artists like Michelangelo and VanGogh may have been poisoned by the lead paints they used to create their masterpieces.   Their illness, then referred to as “painter’s colic”  had many painters complaining of terrible stomach pains, a common symptom of lead poisoning.  It was Bernardinus Ramazzini, a doctor from Italy who in 1713 first suggested it may have been lead poisoning that was causing this illness.  In his De Morbis Artificum Diatriba he wrote, “Of the many painters I have known, almost all I found unhealthy … If we search for the cause of the cachectic and colorless appearance of the painters, as well as the melancholy feelings that they are so often victims of, we should look no further than the harmful nature of the pigments…”  Health complaints from many painters included paleness of the skin, tooth loss, exhaustion,  gout and partial paralysis.  Many of these symptoms have now been linked to chronic lead poisoning.

Unfortunately, although the dangers of lead poisoning have been known for centuries, the problem still exists today, especially in children who are more susceptible as they continue to grow and develop.  Here are some steps you can take to protect against lead poisoning.

1. In residences older than 1978 (the year lead paint was outlawed in the USA) clean surfaces, especially around painted windows and doors with a wet towel to reduce the amount of lead dust that may be present.

2. Wash hands before eating.

3. When renovating or performing any home improvement project that may disturb painted surfaces, consider hiring a contractor who is RRP certified and follows lead safe work practices.

4. Have your residence tested for lead paint so you know specifically, where the lead paint is, if there is any at all.

5. Look out for chipped, cracked, peeling or flaking paint and properly address the issue.

6.  Use a DIY lead test kit like the ones found here to test for lead in your home, school or office.  

7.  If you suspect you or your child has been lead poisoned go to the doctor and have a blood lead level test performed.

Call or email LEW Corp if you have additional questions or need assistance with lead paint issues.