Ask Dr. Cameron
Dear Dr. Cameron: Lately I have noticed that my hair and teeth are falling out and my gums are turning gray. My girlfriend claims that this is a direct result of my ripping the foil off our wine bottles with my teeth and then chewing it up and swallowing it. I say, “Bull! This is a macho thing to do and if chewing up the capsule were really harmful there would be a warning label telling me not to do that.” What do you think?
Dear Skeeter: Your girlfriend has probably been reading the latest hysteria regarding lead foils and wine. It is true that excessive consumption of lead is not good for you., especially when it enters your body at high speed in the form of little metal pellets. And, admittedly, those tin-lead foils which you are so fond of were not put there for you to consume. In fact, their application closely follows the first use of corks in scaling bottles of wine. Cellars were often inhabited by mice and rats who would chew through corks and throw rowdy parties lasting to all hours of the early morning. Being history buffs, the owners of these ravaged cellars were well aware that the disintegration of the Roman Empire was helped along by the use of lead in their water pipes (the Roman word for lead is “Plumbien” from whence the word “plumber”, comes). So being smart fellows, they, it was decided to cover the crown of the bottles with a lead foil and hasten the demise of their mice and rat populations. Now, if the cork is so successful in keeping the wine in the bottle, how is it that lead which is outside the bottle is going to get in? Nobody at the FDA, EPA or CIA has been able to successfully answer that question. Nevertheless, wine has been found to contain on the average the same amount of lead as is found in roasted chicken and popcorn and should therefore be treated with caution.
Think of it this way, Skeeter: chomping on those foils may be causing you to lose your hair but, hey, you can go swimming in the Columbia without worrying about the Strontium 90, since lead is the only common metal which can act as a shield against gamma rays!
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