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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/680

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

We will begin with the poisonous dusts, taking first one of the most murderous classes—those of lead. Accidents due to lead are liable to occur among many classes of operatives who work with this substance either in a metallic state or in combination. Painters, miners, plumbers, type-founders, compositors, and glass-makers are peculiarly exposed to them.

The most obvious precaution to be taken against the admission of poisonous dusts with respired air is to arrest their passage by means of a protective veil or mask. An insurmountable obstacle has prevented the use of such a precaution. The workmen will not wear the screens, although effective and convenient ones enough have been made. Workers in white-lead ought also to wear special clothing for their work; but all that it has been possible to get them to do is to cover their ordinary clothing with overalls. This does not give sufficient security against the transportation of lead-dust by the clothes. Other important measures are those which have regard to cleanliness; here, again, we are opposed by an obstinate resistance. In a shop at Washington, near Newcastle, England, where the oxychloride of lead is prepared, the workmen quit because of an effort to introduce baths among them. They would not be shut up in a bath-room, although they would bathe very readily in the open air or in swimming-ponds.

A very essential precaution that workmen should always take is never to deposit or eat their food in the shop, or allow it to be in any way exposed to mixture with poisonous dusts.

Attention has been directed toward finding an antidote to lead-poisoning. M. Meisens, in 1843, recommended iodide of potassium, and it has been used with excellent effect; it cured declared diseases, as, for instance, paralysis; and permitted the continuance of work in lead without danger from colic. The Academy of Sciences awarded a prize for the discovery. Milk was recommended as a preventive of lead-poisoning by M. Didier-Jean, director of the glass-factory at St. Louis, near Sarreguemines, in 1867; but the workmen were not disposed to use it, and found a way to bring alcoholic liquors to the shop instead of milk.

General hygienic measures against this source of danger include the suppression of lead-dusts, that is the production of as little as possible of them, and the removal of them as soon as they are produced. Moistening, grinding, and mixing under water, closed apparatus for pulverizing, natural and artificial ventilation, substitution of machines for the hand, and mechanical packing—such are the improvements adopted by the factories at Brussels and Lille, with great advantage to the health of the workmen. Of two white-lead factories in Paris a few years ago, one was very unhealthy, furnishing from two hundred and fifty to two hundred and eighty patients a year to the hospitals; while the other, with the same number of men employed, was only slightly unhealthy, and furnished only two or three patients a year, or