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Toxic Circles

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"A collection of articles about occupational health hazards or harms from a historical perspective. The focus is on New Jersey, the book being published by the State university press."

Toxic Circles

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"A collection of articles about occupational health hazards or harms from a historical perspective. The focus is on New Jersey, the book being published by the State university press. The first chapter pertains to neurological shakes among hat-workers during the 19th and early 20th centuries. A mercury-containing compound was used to cure furs into water-resistant felt. Workers breathed mercury vapor caused by a hot workspace. Hatters suffered, across many countries. In 1904, New Jersey enacted a law to require better ventilation for hat-workers exposed to mercury vapor. Mercury continued to be used in hat-making in the US until 1942, when the metal was reserved for military priorities. (Similarly, workers making alkyl-lead to reduce auto engine "knocking" suffered neurological harms.) Chapter 3 recounts bladder cancers among workers in the synthetic dye industry during the 1920s-50s. Dupont physicians began to recognize the problem in 1932, about 30 years after this phenomena had been discovered in Germany and many had died. OSHA introduced benzidine dye regulations in the 1970s and production shifted outside the US. Chapter 4 discusses scrotal cancer in petroleum workers who pressed wax, until a new manufacturing technology in 1951 eliminated previous exposure. Chapter 5 recounts the tragedy of women who painted clock faces with radioactive radium so that they glowed in the dark. In the 1920s, radium was considered good for health, sold as a tonic. Horrors. Chapter 7 recounts harms to chromium workers. In general, as a fundamental rule of pharmacology, high exposure to any material can be dangerous. Fortunately, technological evolution has enabled more automation and cleaner workspaces. Occupational health programs have become more advanced and can draw upon vastly more medical knowledge. Protective apparel is more common nowadays. Despite safer workspaces in modern times, it is welcome to have historical perspectives about past tragedies and how some persisted much too long. This book sheds valuable light on past injustices."

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