Poisoning of the Atmosphere by Arsenic in Wall-Papers

Harper's new monthly magazine 1873

The poisonous effects upon the air of rooms of arsenical pigments on wall-paper have been generally ascribed to the inhalation of the dust, which was found to contain arsenic and copper, but cases of arsenical poisoning of this kind have occured in which, on account of the moisture still present in the wall and the effectual fixing of the colors, this explanation will not answer. Upon these a recent series of experiments by Fleck throws some light. Air in glass receivers was subjected to the action of Schweinfürth green and arsenious acid by simply placing these substances beneath some bodies in a moist condition, and by applying them as a coating to others, with and without paper, potato and wheat starch being employed as pastes. After from eight days to three weeks, in different cases, the presence of arseniureted hydrogen in the air was unmistakably revealed by tests, and left no doubt that cause of chronic arsenical poisoning must be attributed not only to the mechanical mixture of arsenical compounds with the air of rooms in the form of dust, but also to the presence of this gas, resulting from the decomposition of free arsenious acid in Schweinfürth green. It was also found that the development of the gas is favored by moisture in the air and the presence of organic matter, especially that in the paste. Mould appeared on the paper in some cases, showing that arsenic is not preventive of its formation, as often said.

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