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Hot baths, lead workers and astronauts



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A description of the experience

Extract from FASEB J. 2007 Jul;21(9):1948-50."Taking the waters"--springs, wells, and spas. Frosch WA. Department of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College, 525 East 68th St., New York, NY 10021, USA. wafrosc@med.cornell.edu

PMID: 17592155

There have been two modern contributions to these findings [about spas].

In the early 1970s NASA scientists sat astronauts in water at 35°C. They noted a marked increase in urinary excretion of water, sodium, and calcium.

Later, three lead workers with sub-clinical but high blood lead levels were similarly submerged. In all subjects there was a large increase in the rate of urinary lead excretion during immersion. Had the old Bath protocol been followed, three times a week for 24 weeks, a significant proportion of the total body lead would have been removed. This presumed mechanism should not diminish the contributions of other aspects of the 18th century treatment—removal from the source of exposure to lead, good food, and exercise of wasted muscles in warm water.

The high levels of calcium and iron in the Bath water, which was also drunk as part of the treatment, may also have helped decrease the toxicity of the lead present. Gerald Weissmann has suggested (personal communication) that a contributant to Darwin’s complaints might have been heavy metal poisoning. If so, he may have been right that the “water cure [was] no quackery.”

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