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The broader question as to the actual effect of the common use of arsenic as a pigment upon the public health appears to be excluded by the limited provisions of section 2 of this act.
These more important questions are at present the subject of further investigations, and will be reported upon by the Board at a future day.
DR. HILLS' REPORT. The following investigation was undertaken in accordance with a Resolve adopted by the Legislature of 1891, whereby the State Board of Health was authorized to make such investigations and inquiries as it might deem necessary as to the existence of arsenic in any paper, fabric, or other article offered for sale.
As the most practicable means of forming an opinion as to the extent to which arsenic and arsenical pigments are used at the present time, a large number of samples, of such articles in domestic use as have in former years contained dangerous quantities of arsenic, have been collected and subjected to a careful analysis for arsenic. Papers and fabrics have naturally occupied the most important place in this investigation ; for the arsenical pigments used in the manufacture of these materials constitute the most important sources of chronic arsenical poisoning.
In all 1,018 samples have been collected in twenty cities and towns in different sections of the State. Of these, 629, or 61.8 per cent., were non-arsenical ; 389, or 38.2 per cent., contained arsenic in appreciable quantities.
The nature of the samples together with the results of the analyses are shown in the following table :
The small number of wall-papers is explained by the fact that the writer was able, as will appear later, to utilize a large number of analyses of such papers made in his private practice.
In all the investigations which have been made relative to the use of arsenical pigments, and the dangers which may result from their employment, great prominence has been given to wall-papers. As formerly made, these papers frequently contained a large amount of arsenic which was introduced with the coloring matter. During the past few years, however, the paper manufacturers have strenuously maintained that their goods contain no arsenic except possibly minute traces introduced with clay, glue, or other materials used in this industry; and that, admitting the possibility that injury may have resulted from the use of arsenical papers in the past, no harm can result at the present time unless from exposure to papers which were manufactured and placed on the walls several years ago; finally that, as arsenical papers are not manufactured at the present day, the necessity for legislation has ceased to exist. At the hearing before the Committee on Public Health of the Legislature of 1891, relative to the expediency of some legislation to regulate the manufacture and sale of materials containing arsenic, affidavits were presented from the most prominent manufacturers of wall-paper in this country, in which it was stated that “no arsenic is used in this manufacture, and arsenic forms no part of the . materials or ingredients used in such manufacture.”
The writer has had exceptional facilities for the investigation of the chemical side of this subject, having examined, during the past thirteen years, several thousand samples of paper for some of the largest dealers in Boston. The analyses made during the first three years of the writer's experience with this work and those made during the three years just past have been brought together, and the results are shown in the following tables :
Analyses of Wall-papers made in 1879, 1880 and 1881.
Analyses of Wall-papers made in 1889, 1890 and 1891.
Before making any comparisons, or drawing any conclusions, it should be said, by way of explanation, that the papers of the earlier series were examined by the original Marsh method, obtaining a mirror on porcelain ; while those of the later series were examined by the much more delicate method, the so-called Berzelius-Marsh method.
Had the 1,300 “ non-arsenical” papers of the first series been examined by the more delicate process, doubtless a large percentage would have been found to contain an appreciable quantity of arsenic. In other words, the percentage of non-arsenical papers manufactured is probably much
* Estimated as arsenious oxide.
greater to-day than it was ten years ago, although this fact is not apparent from an inspection of the tables.
If a comparison is made between the “arsenical” papers of the first series and those papers of the second series which contain more than one-tenth of a grain per square yard, and such a comparison is permissible, for the former without any question contained more than this quantity, — we are forced to admit that a very decided improvement has taken place; that about three per cent. of the papers manufactured to-day contain more than one-tenth of a grain of arsenic per square yard, against thirty per cent., approximately, ten years ago.
It may be urged that the improvement in the character of the papers, as actually sold in the State, is even greater than these figures indicate, for the reason that the dealers to whom these papers were supplied now return to the manufacturers all which contain more than a certain amount of arsenic. It is to be said, in answer, that the number of dealers who thus return papers is comparatively small; and that such papers as are returned must necessarily find a market elsewhere; that is, with the less particular dealers who constitute the large majority.
In order to determine the character of the papers as sold by other dealers, about 200 samples were collected, some from small dealers in Boston, the majority, however, from dealers in remote parts of the State. Of these 200 samples, 92 were examined with reference to the presence of arsenic; 44 were non-arsenical, 38 contained less than one-twentieth of a grain, 6 between one-twentieth and one-tenth, and 4 more than one-tenth of a grain of arsenic to the square yard. Of the latter, two contained about one-eighth of a grain, one, 1.2 grains, and one, 2.6 grains of arsenic (arsenious oxide) per square yard. There was such a close correspondence between these results and those to which reference has already been made, that it did not seem necessary to pursue this part of the investigation further.
The following conclusions are presented as the result of this inquiry so far as it relates to wall-papers :
First. Between sixty and seventy per cent. of the papers sold in the State are free from arsenic, while about six per cent. contain more than one-twentieth of a grain of arsenic (arsenious oxide) per square yard. Of the latter, about one-half, or three per cent. of the whole number, contain more than one-tenth of a grain per square yard.
Second. The percentage of papers containing more than one-tenth of a grain of arsenic per square yard has not diminished during the past three years. The evidence of this is found in the table showing the results of the analyses made in 1889, 1890 and 1891.
Third. It is practicable to manufacture papers which shall contain less than one-twentieth to one-tenth grain of arsenic per square yard. This is evident from the fact that ninety per cent., approximately, of the papers made to-day and sent into the State contain less than this quantity of arsenic.
Fourth. Arsenic is not essential to the production of the colors, since all the colors which have in years past been highly arsenical are now produced without the use of arsenic.
Fifth. The claim of the paper manufacturers that the arsenic present in their products is an unavoidable impurity is not borne out by the facts. About two per cent. of the papers examined contained quantities of arsenic ranging from one-third of a grain to one grain and over per square yard. Such quantities cannot be attributed to unavoidable impurities. It is undoubtedly true that the manufacturers do not knowingly use arsenic. They do use pigments which contain unnecessary quantities of arsenic, and the use of such pigments can easily be avoided.
OTHER PAPERS. Of these, the most important are the so-called “glazed and plated” papers, which may be found in nearly all the Kindergarten schools, where they are placed in the hands of small children who fashion them into ornamental articles of various kinds. Rolls of these papers, put up expressly for the use of children, may be bought in nearly all the toy shops. They are also used for covering pasteboard boxes, as covers for pamphlets, fór wrapping confectionery and various fancy articles, for lamp shades, and for decorative purposes.