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Poisonous Books From Centuries Ago Found in University Library

Image: Poisonous Books From Centuries Ago Found in University Library

Scientists discovered the arsenic on medieval manuscripts. (Southern Denmark University)

By    |   Friday, 06 July 2018 12:45 PM

Poisonous books dating back centuries were found in a university library in Denmark recently.

Experts from the University of Southern Denmark were studying medieval manuscript fragments contained in three rare books from the 16th and 17th centuries when they realized they contained high levels of arsenic, Fox News reported.

It turns out that the green pigment contained on the books’ covers, which was likely used to protect the volumes from insects and vermin, was arsenic.

The startling discovery was only made when scientists took the volumes to the lab to perform a series of X-ray fluorescence analyses.

They were studying the ancient manuscript fragments that were recycled to make the books’ covers.

After the Danish Reformation in 1536 A.D. many Catholic books were destroyed, Kaare Lund Rasmussen, an associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark, told Fox News.

However, some were re-used to bind newer books from the 1500s and 1600s.

Researchers found that the covers of three rare books contained Latin texts, which were hard to identify because of a layer of green paint that obscured the wording, said Rasmussen and Jacob Povl Holck, a research librarian at the university, according to The Conversation.

According to The World Health Organization, arsenic is highly toxic, with immediate symptoms of acute arsenic poisoning including vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. These symptoms can be followed by numbness and tingling of the extremities, muscle cramping and death, in extreme cases.

Long-term exposure to arsenic may cause skin cancer as well as cancers of the bladder and lungs.

“Next step is to warn librarians and readers of old books to wear protective gloves, and to advise libraries to store any green painted old books in a dry, dark environment out of harm’s way of people inhaling the air above the books,” Rasmussen told Fox News.

The books meanwhile are being kept separate in the library, in cardboard boxes containing safety labels.

Arsenic is a common natural element, and its presence has been a concern in everything from drinking water, to rice and baby food.

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Poisonous books dating back centuries were found in a university library in Denmark, where experts discovered three rare books from the 16th and 17th centuries contained high levels of arsenic.
poisonous, books, arsenic, denmark
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2018-45-06
Friday, 06 July 2018 12:45 PM
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