Diseases of Workers among Lead and Paint.

The Manufacturer and Builder 9, 1869

In the sixth of a series of reports "On the Preventible Diseases of the Industrial Classes," the British Medical Journal says: "Owing to the impossibility of keeping paint from coming into contact with the skin while they are at work; owing to the almost universal practice among them of touching their food with unwashed hands, and to the habit of some of them of wearing corduroy, fustian, and other clothes difficult to cleanse, painters absorb large quantities of the hurtful metal, and suffer gravely in consequence. An attack of colic may occur now and again, and the painter will recover; but if he continue to follow his trade, the more serious diseases, such as paralysis or kidney deseases, are almost certain to attack him at last, and to render him, if not entirely unable to work, at least so weak and prostrated that, in mental as well as in physical power, he will be but as the ghost of his former self. It is seldom that such workers are killed in early life; they lose power early, and soon become unable to perform a good day's work; but they drag through their labor for many years, suffering always from general weakness. From the time htta lead has contamined their bodies, their lives are wearisome and joyless. Since lead is such a dangerous metal to work with, it is most desirable that all efforts to obtain a substitute should meet with attentive consideration. Different substances have been used instead of lead in the manudacture of paint, and with an encouraging amount of success. Zinc has been employed, and we have had favorable reports of it; the silicate of iron has also been used. The zinc is thinner than other paint, and workmen do not like it on this acocunt; but in all other respects it is, we are told, as useful as leaden paint.

Our medical co[n]temporary suggests that all workers among lead should, before commencing or resuming work, wash their hands, not once but many times a day, in a strong decoction of oak-bark, the tannin of which would not only harden the skin, but would protect it against the action of lead. The hair of the workmen should be kept short. All painters should, during their work, wear clean cloth caps. All their clothes should be made of materials that can be easily and frequently washed. Their hands should be washed before touching food, and, if stained with paint, should be dipped into a decoction of oak-bark. The mouth should be well rinsed with cold water before partaking fo food. A weak decoction of oak-bark should be used as a wash several times a week. The body should be sponged night and morning with cold or tepid water, and the hair thoroughly washed every evening after work. The food should contain a large proportion of fatty substances, and milk should be taken in large quantities.

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