Amber Lead was a naturally occurring ore that made the soil and plants of the land where it was found a beautiful shade of white, said to be like a fairytale kingdom of snow.
Products fabricated from amber lead possessed a shiny white coat that made the material an instant success and a boon to Flevance's economy. The products made from Amber Lead vary from wall paint and pottery to make-up and weapons.
The country was consequently nicknamed the "White City" and its population, for a time, lived in prosperity; ironically enough, however, the ore would be the leading cause of the kingdom's downfall. Over a century ago, the World Government discovered in their geological surveys of the island the poisonous nature of the ore when exposed to the skin; if left unearthed, it's basically harmless, but when handled, it erodes the body from the inside out. However, in their greed, the organization and royalty of Flevance withheld the discovery from the public, allowing amber lead to accumulate over the years.
Weary neighboring countries began shooting down infected citizens attempting to cross the quarantined borders of Flevance. Equipped with a surplus of lead bullets, the citizens responded in retaliation, resulting in the destruction of Flevance.
Amber Lead Syndrome
Amber Lead Syndrome (珀鉛病 Hakuen-byō?) is a non-contagious, hereditary disease caused by the accumulation of amber lead in the victim's body after prolonged exposure. Amber Lead poisoning is unnoticeable in its early stages when in low concentration, but its effects are observable, given that each succeeding generation in Flevance had noticeably shorter lifespans. This is due to the fact that the level of amber lead concentration is passed on to the next generation, leading to nearly everyone in Flevance having a slowly increasing concentration of amber lead poisoning over time, resulting in every subsequent generation having a shorter lifespan than the previous one. Around the Golden Age of Piracy, the poison had accumulated to the point where a generation of children would die before coming of age and leaving any descendants.
When the concentration reaches worrying levels, signs and symptoms of the disease become easily visible on the victim. White blotches of skin appear on the victim's epidermis and their hair becomes bleach white. They also feel intense chronic pains in their bodies, leaving them in agony until their eventual demise. With nearly everyone in Flevance sharing the same symptoms, coupled with the World Government's refusal to disclose the disease's true nature, the island was declared a quarantine zone and was ultimately destroyed. The doctors of the island were ineffective in stopping the disease, though Trafalgar D. Water Law's father, the best doctor of the country, was adamant that extracting the lead was possible. As a result of this incident, doctors globally came to the incorrect conclusion that Amber Lead Syndrome is contagious, and anyone who has it is a danger that should be exterminated with prejudice; only few people outside Flevance, such as Donquixote Doflamingo, and the World Government knew of the disease's non-contagious nature.
Although Law, the sole infected individual to escape the island, was destined to die at age 13, he proved his father right by obtaining a cure and living to this day. Doflamingo told Law of a potential cure for Amber Lead Syndrome: he stated that a Devil Fruit might hold a solution, due to the varied array of powers they hold. True to Doflamingo's claim, Law eventually consumed the Ope Ope no Mi, which allowed him to extract the Amber Lead accumulated in his body.
Translation and Dub Issues
Hakuen (珀鉛?) is not a real compound in the Japanese language. The first kanji 珀 means amber and is pronounced haku. It contains the radical 白, meaning white, which can also be pronounced haku (for example, in Hakuba the White Horse). This makes a pun, in that Hakuen can also mean white lead, which is appropriate considering the color of the substance and Flevance's reputation as the White City.
- Amber Lead is similar to asbestos, a highly profitable mineral once used globally and found in all kinds of goods. Use of asbestos was discontinued when it was discovered to cause serious and even fatal diseases. Much like in the case of amber lead, many governments initially ignored the scientific and medical reports about asbestos's toxicity, continuing to allow its use into the 1980's, even with its negative effects having been discovered in the 1890's.
- The symptoms of amber lead poisoning also resemble those of cadmium poisoning, known in Japan as "Itai-itai disease" (イタイイタイ病), literally meaning "it hurts-it hurts disease". Similarly to the amber lead syndrome, cadmium poisoning is known to cause pain all over the body and paleness of the skin. The fate of Flevance also mirrors cases of cadmium poisoning in Japan during its industrial revolution in the early 20th century. As the need for metal continued to grow, pollution from mining operations went unchecked, eventually resulting in rivers being contaminated with cadmium. The water from the river was used for rice field irrigation, and eventually poison began to slowly accumulate in the bodies of people eating the rice.
- Amber lead is also possibly a reference to the chemical element Arsenic, which possess similar symptoms, such as that it accumulates slowly in the body, cannot be flushed, and eventually reached deadly levels. The story of the relationship between Salsigne, Arsenic, and Gold Mining, in which during the 18th century, in Salsigne, France, Gold mining operations coincided with Arsenic mining due to the minerals happening to be collocated in the southwestern region of the country. Even the name of the country afflicted, "Flevance", is a possible nod to the real-world country, France, where Salsigne is found.
- One Piece Manga and Anime — Vol. 76 Chapter 762 (p. 2-16) and Episode 701, Amber Lead and the associated illness is explained.
- One Piece Manga and Anime — Vol. 77 Chapter 764 (p. 14-17) and Episode 703, Every doctor Rosinante took Law to rejected him in fear and prejudice.
- One Piece Manga and Anime — Vol. 76 Chapter 761 (p. 11) and Episode 700, Law told Diamante and Trébol he was doomed to die in three years and two months.
- One Piece Manga and Anime — Vol. 76 Chapter 763 (p. 11) and Episode 702, Doflamingo explains that a Devil Fruit may be Law's one hope of a cure.
- One Piece Manga and Anime — Vol. 77 Chapter 765 (p. 3-5) and Episode 704, Doflamingo and Rosinante speak of how the Ope Ope no Mi can cure Law.