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Egyptian mummies exposed to pollution

india Updated: Jun 06, 2011 16:54 IST

Researchers have uncovered 15 mummies, which provide sufficient evidence that ancient Egyptians, including noblemen and priests, were exposed to air pollution.

They have found particulates in the lungs of all the mummies, including a 1,800-year-old one found in Dakhleh Oasis, a remote outpost in southwest Egypt that supports the evidence.

Particulates or tiny microscopic particles that irritate the lungs have been linked to a wide array of modern-day illnesses, including heart disease, lung ailments and cancer.

The particulates are associated with post-industrial activities, such as fossil-fuel burning.

The 15 mummified lungs examined so far showed particulates and the levels of them are not much below those expected in modern-day lungs.

"I would say it would be less than modern day, but not much less," the LiveScience quoted Roger Montgomerie, a doctoral student at the KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology at the University of Manchester as saying.

This is "quite bizarre if you think about it, considering we have the mass burning of fossil fuels and an awful lot of pollution that has been going on since the industrial revolution," he added.

Studies have shown that while ancient Egypt was a pre-industrial society, its people did engage in cooking, metalworking and mining, all activities that can generate air pollution.

Furthermore, the Egyptian climate with its deserts and sandstorms would have whipped up any grounded particulates into the air where they could easily be inhaled.

This research has been presented at the 12th annual Current Research in Egyptology conference in the United Kingdom.