- Toxicity of Metals
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- Toxicity of Metals book
The process of felting, employed in making hats many years ago, required the use of mercurial compounds and many hatters suffered from the CNS disturbances, including behavioral disorders, associated with mercury toxicity. Metal intoxication as an occupational disease may be 4000 years old. Lead was produced as a by-product of silver mining as long ago as 2000 BC. Hippocrates described abdominal colic in a man who worked as a metal smelter in 370 BC and arsenic and mercury were known to the ancients even if their toxicity was not. In 1810 a remarkable case of mass poisoning with mercury occurred. The 74-gun man-o’-war HMS Triumph salvaged 130 tons of mercury from a Spanish vessel wrecked while returning from South America, where the mercury had been mined. The mercury was contained in leather pouches, which became damp and rotten, allowing it to escape and vaporize. Within 3 weeks 200 men were affected with signs of mercury poisoning including profuse salivation, weakness, tremor, partial paralysis, ulcerations of the mouth, and diarrhea. Almost all animals onboard died, including mice, cats, a dog, and a canary. Five men died. When the vessel put in at Gibraltar for cleaning, all those working in the hold salivated profusely.