25 June 2010

The dark history of phosphorus matches

These red phosphorus matches were made by the Salvation Army as an attempt to provide an alternative to the more commonly available matches made with white or yellow phosphorus. Working with the vapors of white or yellow phosphorus caused deposits of phosphorus to build up in the workers jaw bones, killing the bone and resulting in its decomposing and falling apart. The affected bones would also give off a green glow as they were eaten away. Removal of the jaw bone could save the affected persons life, otherwise death from organ poisoning was the most likely result. This condition was common enough among workers in match factories that it became known as “Match Maker’s Leprosy” as well as “Phossy Jaw”.
 Found at Centuries of Advice and Entertainment, which has links for additional information.

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