Section of lead water pipe, Roman, 100 BC-200 AD.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The Romans considered a public water supply to be an esential aspect of civic life. In addition, they recognised that dirty water carried disease. As a result, the Romans developed water supply, drainage and sewerage systems of a quality not improved upon until the 19th century. Lead was extensively used for pipes, even though the Romans were aware of the dangers of lead poisoning.