Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bottle of wine, fruit of the vine

Do you like wine?

An alarming title of a paper by Harry Drake Gibbs (1872 – 1934). This is the guy from gibbs reagent (2,6-dichloroquinonechloroimide for a phenol test, Chem. Rev. 1927, 3, 291)
The arsenic in the wine came from arsenic-containing pesticides, clarifying agents, aniline-dyes and agents to clean the wine casks.

You may think: ‘I don’t care I prefer beer.’ Well don’t feel safe.

The Manchester 1900 arsenic brewage resulted in 6000 poisonings and 70 deaths. The arsenic came from glucose, so the beer did not comply with the Reinheitsgebot.

Invert sugar (hydrolyzed sucrose) can be added while brewing beer to speed up the fermentation. Invert sugar can be made by cooking normal sugar in the presence of an acid (resulting in fructose and glucose). The 1900 brewer used invert suger prepared by by this method using sulfuric acid. The sulfuric acid was made from sulfur obtained by combution of sulfur containing ore (pyrite). Unfortunately this ore contained quite some arsenic. The sulfuric acid was polluted with this arsenic and in the end there was the arsenicated beer.

This type of beer is still not very popular, most homebrewers prefer decent stuff.

Arsenicated wine is not rare. It has been said that Napoleon died from arsenic poisoning on Saint Helena in 1821.

If this is true it does not mean that someone poisoned him deliberately. Maybe he just drank the wrong stuff.


Chemgeek said...

Seriously? I shouldn't be using arsenic in my brewing? I figured since it's right below P on the periodic table it wouldn't matter.

OK, I'll stop using arsenic.

Ashutosh said...

You would love The Murder of Napoleon by David Hapgood about how a dentist Sten Forshuvud unearthed the possible murder. It is likely that Napoleon was murdered deliberately. What is most interesting is that when they dug hus grave after 20 years it seemed he had not aged at all and in fact looked younger than some of his old friends and officers who were there; arsenic preserves skin and hair...

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