Another interesting sight in the “A Day in Pompeii” traveling exhibit (seen at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science), a Roman era water cooler:
As with many items of the time used for drinking water, this container was made of sheet lead — resistant to corrosion, but posing many long-term health hazards to its users. A hole at this container’s base likely once held a bronze tap for dispensing the water it contained, while a layer of charcoal inside filtered the water to improve its taste.
While the Romans’ use of lead in plumbing (the origin of the term, actually) has been known for quite a while, it took a recent study to quantify its impacts. By sampling sediment in rivers and canals around Rome, researchers found that Roman tap water contained 100 times more lead than water drawn from local springs.