Sunday 10 September 2017

Phossy Jaw - White Phosphorus Causes Match-Makers Leprosy

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Right - Phossy jaw by Mutter 1896
Left - "Match factory worker at the end of 19th century suffering from phossy jaw with pathological fracture of the mandible and fistula formation."

Match-makers leprosy or "phossy jaw" was an occupational disease seriously affecting the people manufacturing matches in the 19th century. Caused by the use of white phosphorus, it led to necrosis of the jaw of the children and young adults employed by the likes of Bryant & May. Workers clothes emitted white fumes of phosphorus pentoxide when they returned home and rested by the fire. Their faces and hands glowed in the dark. Their jaw-bones died and fell off, bit by bit, soon after their teeth.

Household Words: A Weekly Journal, Volume 5
By Charles Dickens 1852

Phossy jaw was very difficult to treat, as can be gathered from this from Saint Bartholomew's Hospital report -

Mr. Eldone's jaw-bone, after removal

In 1861 an incident with white phosphorus and Queen Victoria occurred. Concerning an autonomous phosphorus harvester, it is mentioned in the latter part of an article about the allotropes of phosphorus, here.

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"Hodges emitted a scream the like of which
I hadn't heard since his scrotum was burned off
during my experiment with fluorine gas last year."

The Exotic Experimentation of Ernest Glitch,
Victorian Science with a Smile

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Unrelated to this post, below is an example of
eclectic science esoterica 

Ice Crystals 15 cm across. 
Inside a fumarolic cave, Mt. Erebus, Antarctica.
Photo: Nial Peters

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Thylacines at Hobart Zoo

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