Scribing hazardous to health of medieval monks

New research on the bones of monks interred in six Danish cemeteries shows that the brothers may have been exposed to toxic mercury while copying Biblical texts. Mercury was used in the preparation of red ink.

From the article:

Kaare Lund Rasmussen, a University of Southern Denmark scientist at the Institute of Physics and Chemistry, suspects that ink used in the abbey's scriptorium was the culprit. He told Discovery News "it is very human to lick the brush, if one wants to make a fine line."