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Occupation

lead, lead-poisoning, particles, employed, derivatives and food

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OCCUPATION DISEASES.—There are a number of conditions dangerous to health which are common to many occupations. In certain instances the workman is exposed to particular dangers, which are due either to the material under manufacture or to the conditions under which the work is done. In certain occupations a characteristic set of symptoms may have been associated with the same for centuries, and yet the introduction of a change in technique, or the adoption of precautionary measures, has almost immediately eliminated all danger.

Lead-poisoning is probably the most common and important of the so-called occupation diseases, not only on account of the severity of the resulting symptoms, but because of the frequency with which lead is employed. Chronic lead-poisoning, as a result of the handling of lead or its derivatives, may occur in workers engaged in reduction processes for metallic lead, in the manufacture of lead into various objects, in the making of lead com pounds, in handling objects made from lead, and in various industries in which lead or its derivatives are employed. Those most exposed are the employees in factories making lead-colours, sugar of lead, or battery-plates ; also type-founders, printers, painters, gilders, potters, glaziers, clay workers, and plumbers. The introduction of the lead into the body usually results from the ingestion of small particles with the saliva, food, or drink ; less often from the inhalation of finely divided lead or of dust containing particles of lead. The pores of the skin, especially if perspiration is active, can also take up lead particles, which are then absorbed by the system. One peculiarity of lead is that it remains embedded in the tissues for prolonged periods, and is given off very slowly. This accounts for the fact that the continuous absorption by the organism of very minute quantities of lead may in time lead to the production of chronic lead-poisoning of a very severe character.

The actual treatment of the disturbances due to lead-poisoning must be left to the physician ; and it is merely proper here to discuss the pre cautionary measures should be carefully followed by both employers and employees. Sets of rules and regulations have been prescribed for

certain industries in which lead is employed, and which are mainly directed towards the maintenance of cleanliness in the workshops and an abundance of fresh air. The endeavour has also been made to impress upon manu facturers the advisability of substituting some non-toxic colour for the very poisonous white lead pigment.

In many industries contamination, particularly of the hands, by lead or its chemical derivatives, cannot be avoided. In such cases the workmen must be instructed to cultivate extreme cleanliness, as their health and even their lives depend on this. To avoid inhaling dust which contains lead particles, a special " respirator," or a moistened sponge, should be worn in front of the mouth and nose, even though it makes the face uncomfortably warm, and interferes with breathing. Food should never be taken into the workroom. If this cannot conveniently be avoided, the eatables should always be kept in a dust-proof container, or else wrapped up in thick paper. Neither food nor drink should be taken in rooms Ivhere lead is being manu factured or employed ; and before eating, and also when leaving the rooms, the hands, arms, face, and scalp should be thoroughly washed with soap and water, the nails cleaned, the mouth rinsed, the teeth brushed, and the nose cleansed by snuffing up some water. It is also well to wear special clothes while working. In some countries these are prescribed by law. Every worker in lead should take at least two warm baths every week ; and where the body is apt to become contaminated by especially poisonous lead-pigments, such baths are necessary every day. Complete abstin ence from all indulgence in alcoholic beverages is demanded, because experience has shown that drinkers are much more prone to be afflicted with lead-poisoning, and also have it in a more pronounced form, than persons who are abstainers.

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