White-Lead Paint Banished By Law

Popular Mechanics, huhtikuu 1915

France has Forbidden its Use and Other European Nations have Prescribed Drastic Rules for Painters

Comprehensive national laws prohibiting all working painters from using white lead or products containing it in any form, have recently become effective throughout France. This legislation, aimed at the commonest source of lead poisoning, is the most drastic step yet taken in the attempt to check the ravages of this industrial disease.

Plumbism, as this malady is known, is a subject which has commanded much scientific study and provoked almost continuous discussion in Europe during the last decade. Extensive inquiries into its causes and effects have resulted in the enactment of severe laws in Great Britain, Germany, and other countries. Although similar investigations have been made in the United States, illinois alone has passed laws intended to lessen the dangers to which painters are subjected.

Lead poisoning is caused by the apsorption of the mineral into the system through the respiratory organs, the alimentary canal, or the skin. its victim may have been exposed to its dangers for only a few days, or for years. The disease manifests itself in many different ways. The victim may become blind, be seized with paralysis in the form of "wrist drop" or "ankle drop," lose his mind, develop heart trouble, or Bright's disease, or die in a few hours from a combination of disorders.

Carelessness, ignorance, and uncleanliness are listed as the causes of lead poisoning among painters. Such common practices as holding the paintbrush between the teeth, placing putty and white lead in the palms of hands, eating before thoroughly washing the hands and removing the working clthes, using tobacco while working, and other similar customs, that bring the lead into contact with the skin or into the mouth are strictly forbidden by European laws. One of the most dangerous occupations, according to European investigations, is that of sandpapering a lead-painted surface. Fine particles of lead dust are given off which the worker cannot avoid breathing. Another fruitful source of plumbism is in burning off old paint, while the dust given off by the clothes worn by painters is almost equally dangerous.

The new French law, which was enacted some five years ago but is only just now in full effect, rules that "the use of white lead, of linseed oil mixed with lead, and of all specialized products containing white lead is forbidden in all painting, no matter what its nature, carried out by working painters either on the outside or on the inside of buildings." As in England, Germany, Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands, there are numerous laws which regulate the work in the various branches of the lead industry, requiring medical examination, prompt report of all cases of the disease, and stipulating even the kind of clothes worn by workers, what they must do before eating, and what provisions must be made at workshops for their personal cleanliness. Austria has prohibited the use of white lead for all interior work. The international Congress of industrial Hygiene has considered the advisability of entirely prohibiting the use of it in all of the countries represented. A study of hospital reports in New York City has shown that out of 60 deaths resulting from lead poisoning in two years, 40 of victims were painters. Out of 100 apparently able-bodied painters who were examined, 59 had chronic lead poisoning. Of 1,000 Chicago painters who answered questions asked by the Department of Labor, more than a third exhibited symptoms of plumbism.

All of the foregoing facts together with much additional information on the subject are contained in official raports of the U. S. Department of Labor, which has compiled the result investigations in Europe and America.

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