« PreviousContinue »
jaw, but I am young yet, and how would it.look? I'd rather be dead, I think!"
The suppurating bone is more horrible than anything that can be imagined. Anyone who has once witnessed the condition of such a sufferer can readily understand why dentists and physicians alike shun patients who are afflicted with "phossy jaw."
Now the case of Mary Wilson is not extraordinary. It is typical of many. There is an old woman in Ohio—a former matchmaker—who, as a result of phosphorus poisoning, for twenty years has had no lower jaw, but masticates her food by pressing it against her upper jaw with her thumb. Then there is
George K of Portland, Maine, who
also had his entire lower jaw removed and for twenty-two years ate no solid
food; and William J of Milwaukee,
who lived in abject misery with necrosis of the bones of the ear.
A well-known case was that of Emil H , who underwent treatment in Chicago in 1895 for necrosis of the jaw. According to the hospital records, when forty-six years old, and married, he was first admitted to the hospital on June 9th, 1896, and remained ten days. The following appears in the hospital record:
"Phosphorus necrosis. Dr. B of
Chicago removed both upper and lower maxillae." With both upper and lower jaws entirely removed, and with the poison still continuing its deadly work, this man lived month after month, suffering untold agonies, and taking nourishment through a tube.
Dozens of cases could be quoted of strong vigorous young men and women who have gone to work in our match factories, and in a few years have become terribly disfigured, with teeth gone, and with necrosed bone exposed. When a man has his lower jaw removed he immediately grows a beard, a refuge denied to the women sufferers.
Now, incredible though it may sound, it is an absolutely established fact that this human misery, this blasting of the lives of men, women, and children, is absolutely unnecessary, and that a harmless substitute for the white phosphorus exists and has been successfully used in this and other countries. In other words, our match manufacturers permit their
workpeople to run the risk of this peril by unnecessarily continuing the use of poisonous phosphorus, because the substitute costs a fraction more!
In order to understand the full meaning of the present situation we must review briefly the match industry as a whole. Know, then, that these insignificant little trifles of wood, paper, or wax, topped with latent flame, wherewith we kindle fires and light the soothing pipe or cigar, represent an industry involving an investment in Europe and America of hundreds of millions of dollars. The match does its work, and is cast contemptuously aside, yet it is an evolution representative of much human patience, ingenuity and skill,—one of the best gifts sought out and elaborated by genius for the benefaction of the human race.
In this country alone the largest producer cuts one hundred million feet of timber every year to be converted into match sticks. Every minute of the twenty-four hours throughout the day three million matches are struck. Fifteen hundred billion is the number for an entire year. The importance of the industry is only recognized when the average smoker tries to contemplate his predicament if he had to go back to the time when he had to coax a spark from a tinder box.
In the years succeeding the discovery of the phosphorus match the industry grew prodigiously. In Germany first, then in France, Belgium and England, and successively in all parts of Europe, factories were established, and as there was absolutely no control exercised over the manufacture, the most deplorable conditions prevailed. Matches were being made almost anywhere, in the workmen's cottages, in the homes, in cellars. Phosphorus was found in clothing, in the midst of food, within reach of children, and from this carelessness came fires and hundreds of deaths from poisoning. The workmen, recruited from anywhere, and uncared for, were crowded together in unventilated workrooms, where the atmosphere was stifling. In a brief period the hospital in Vienna had one hundred and twentysix sufferers from phosphorus necrosis, and the hospitals of Berlin and Nuremberg were also crowded with cases.
DEATH CERTIFICATE OF ANNA WALTER. A worker in a Wisconsin factory after the use of the harmless substitute for poison had been discontinued. She died in June. 1908. of "general debility due to phospho-necrosis of left inferior maxillary bone." Fifteen others in the same factory have lost one or both jaws.
About this time the various governments of Europe began to make rules and regulations for the manufacture of matches. The new industry was driven out of the cellars. Better ventilation and better opportunities for bathing in the factories were insisted on. But so long as white phosphorus continued to be used necrosis could not be eliminated, and so in 1872 Finland gave up attempts at regulation and prohibited the use of white phosphorus in her match factories. Denmark, in 1874, followed suit. , In France, where the manufacture of matches is a state monopoly, the disease spread with great rapidity, and the French Government, called upon to bear the expense of the many cases of poisoning, offered a reward of $10,000 for a substitute for white phosphorus, which was discovered in sesqui-sulphide of phosphorus, and the use of white phosphorus was prohibited in 1897. Switzer
land decided upon prohibition in 1898, and the Netherlands in 1901. In 1906, on account of the difficulties of eliminating the use of phosphorus in countries with an important export trade, the International Association for Labor Legislation secured an International Conference at Berne, which resulted in an international treaty providing for the absolute prohibition of the manufacture, importation, or sale of matches made from white phosphorus. This treaty was signed by France, Denmark, Luxembourg, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Germany. On January 1, 1910, Great Britain also signed the Berne treaty. In 1908 the Austrian House of Representatives passed a resolution requesting the Austrian Government to prohibit the use of the poison. Hungary is considering absolute prohibition. Sweden does not permit the use of poisonous matches at home but exports
vision for the protection of the health of workers in her match factories, although for over half a century the dangers of working with white phosphorus have been well known
The best harmless substitute for the poisonous phosphorus, i. e., sesqui-sulphide of phosphorus, would make the manufacturers' cost of matches less than five per cent, more, but they declare that its voluntary use would place them at too great a disadvantage with business competitors. During 1909 and 1910, however, a quiet investigation was made of conditions in fifteen American match factories by agents of the Bureau of Labor. Their reports show that sixtyfive per cent, of the labor force were working under conditions exposing them
employed 3,591 persons, of whom 2,024 were men and 1,253 were women 16 years of age and over: children under 16 numbered 314—121 boys and 193 girls.
Notwithstanding the dangers connected with employment in th» match factories, 23.26 per cent, of the men are paid less than six dollars a week, and 33.52 per cent, earned ten dollars or more. Of the women, 53.75 per cent, earned under six dollars a week and only 4.47 per cent, earned ten dollars and over. In some instances the employees have been in ignorance of the serious dangers of match-factory employment. In several factories visited not a single notice was posted warning the employees of the peculiar dangers to which they
were exposed by the character of their work.
In some instances the employers also have carried on the manufacture of matches entirely in ignorance of the dangers involved. The manager of one factory even declared to Dr. John li. Andrews, secretary of the American Association for Labor Legislation—who has made an extensive study of the effects of phosphorus poisoning in the United States—that they had gone on for five years in no way suspecting that there was anything dangerous about the material they were using. Their attention was first called to the dangers of the industry, so they said, by an epidemic of phosphorus necrosis which broke out almost simultaneously among their employees.
Ignorance of the dangers of the industry and of the practice of the most fundamental precautions exists to an extraordinary degree. A physician in one of the towns where a match factory is located had under treatment a very serious case of phosphorus necrosis, and when asked what kind of phosphorus was used in the factory where the disease was contracted, replied that he "did not know." Several dentists interviewed stated that they had been unable to find anything written on the subject of phosphorus poisoning, and several confessed that they had been "experimenting," and hoping in that way to learn what to do for their patients.
A searching investigation by Dr. Andrews in the homes of the workpeople of three match factories yielded a total of eighty-two cases of phosphorus poisoning. He quickly discovered the records of more than one hundred cases of the disease, though the belief has been fostered by the match manufacturers that the disease has not existed in a serious form for twenty years in this country.
Unfortunately for the investigators, the labor element in match factories is constantly changing, and it is difficult to find among the employees one whose memory goes back over many years to recall cases of necrosis that may have occurred several years ago. Girls who formerly worked in match factories are difficult to find because of change of
name by marriage, or because of change of occupation and residence. And when finally located these older women often, from reasons of social pride, reluctantly admit that they ever worked in a match factory. Employees now at work in the match factories frequently express the greatest alarm, even when met at their homes, lest the giving of information cost them the loss of their miserably paid positions. Sometimes, however, starting with the statement that they never heard of more than one case, they are later able to recall, after some careful thinking, half a dozen or more specific instances, and to give names and even approximate dates, although it is a fact that employees leave the factory immediately upon learning the nature of their trouble, often without telling their most intimate friends at the bench the true cause of their leaving.
Although complicated by modern methods of machines', the fundamental processes in the manufacture of matches may be described in a few words. The wooden match splint is prepared, the phosphorus composition for the head of the match is mixed : one end of the splint is dipped into this paste; the "green" match is allowed to dry. and finally it is boxed and wrapped.
The processes which are especially dangerous in this industry are all those which bring the employee within range of the poisonous phosphorus. In the mixing, dipping, drying and packing room the danger from breathing the poisonous fumes and from contact with the phosphorus is always present, although it may be much diminished by thorough ventilation and by the rigid enforcement of preventive measures. Also, particles of phosphorus become attached to the hands and are later transferred to the mouth by the employees.
Two kinds of phosphorus are used in the manufacture of matches. One is the red or amorphous variety contained in the friction surface of safety match boxes. This, when pure, is entirely harmless. It is made by baking in a closed vessel the poisonous or white phosphorus—also called yellow phosphorus, because when exposed to the light it becomes yellowish—and is consequently more expensive. The poisonous phosphorus is made from bones, and when sold for commercial purposes is usually in the form of sticks, in appearance not unlike lemon candy. A very small amount of this poison is sufficient to cause death.
Broadly speaking, three kinds of matches are manufactured. One is the "safety" match, which must be struck on a prepared surface on the box. This match contains no phosphorus, and is harmless. The igniting composition is painted on the box, and contains red phosphorus, which, when pure, is nonpoisonous. Although used extensively in Europe, its manufacture in this country is limited.
The second kind of match can be struck on any ordinary rough surface, and is called the "strike-anywhere" phosphorus match. This is the familiar parlor match. As made in America, the paste for the head of this ordinary match contains poisonous phosphorus, the direct cause of "phossy jaw."
The third variety of match also possesses the desirable quality of striking anywhere, and is at the same time nonpoisonous. This is the strike-anywhere match now manufactured and used in those countries where public sentiment has been sufficiently aroused to prohibit the use of white phosphorus in matchmaking, and, as we have seen, it is made of sesqui-sulphide of phosphorus. For twelve years, in France, this substitute has been successfully employed, and its use has been extended to several other countries, which have absolutely prohibited the manufacture, importation and sale of matches made from white phosphorus.
Several years ago the Diamond Match Company, the biggest concern of its kind, with giant factories in Ohio, Wisconsin, Maine. Michigan, New York and California, demonstrated the practicability of manufacturing the nonpoisonous "strike-anywhere" match in this country, and put thousands of boxes upon the market laleled "These matches do not contain phosphorus. A new discovery."
It cost a little more to manufacture, however, and as the public, unaware of the perils of white phosphorus, did not demand it, it was abandoned. The writer
was shown a box of these matches by Dr. John B. Andrews, who struck several of them on wood and cloth and other objects. Although they were manufactured four or five years ago they ignited perfectly, completely refuting the statement that has been made that while successful in Europe they cannot be manufactured and used in America "owing to climatic conditions."
Now the Diamond Match Company had acquired the American patent rights from the French chemists who discovered sesqui-sulphide. When the investigation conducted jointly by Dr. Andrews and the Bureau of Labor revealed the shocking nature of the disease caused by the white phosphorus, the American Association for Labor Legislation brought all its influence to bear on the Diamond Match Company to induce them, in the interests of humanity, to surrender their monopoly in the harmless match. The present president of the company, Mr. Edward R. Stettinius, happens to be an unusual type of trust president, with a distinctly philanthropic turn of mind. During the two years that he has been connected with the match industry he has made every effort to improve the working conditions of the employees.
But the proposition which Dr. Andrews made on behalf of his Association meant the surrendering of rights which it had cost the match company about one hundred thousand dollars to acquire. Nevertheless, Mr. Stettinius laid the matter before his directors, and expressed his personal approval of the suggestion. The board was amazed and indignant. "What! Present our competitors with a patent worth $100,000! You must be crazy," they said, in effect. Stettinius pointed out the unenviable position in which the company stood. "Phossy jaw" could no longer be denied, and they possessed the only remedy. To cut a long story short, Stettinius eventually carried the day, and on January 6th, 1911, the patent rights of sesquisulphide of phosphorus were transferred to three trustees,—Professor E. R. A. Seligman of Columbia University, Charles P. Neill, Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor, and Jackson Ralston, Attorney for the American Federation