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Disease from Vapor of Turpentine



We are indebted to M. Marchal de Calvi for the first intima tion that the vapor of turpentine produces a specific effect on those who are engaged in painting in oil and lead colors. Before his time it was considered that the lead in the paint was the cause of the disease. De Calvi proved that when the lead is fixed, the emanations from the painted surface, which consist purely of tur pentine, are exceedingly poisonous. He further pointed out that some workmen are specially affected through idiosyncrasy; in other words, that certain workmen are specially affected, but that all are liable to suffer. My own observations, made at various times since Calvi's announcement to the Academy of Sciences in Paris, on De cember 9, 1s55, have fully confirmed his observations.

I have found marked symptoms in workmen using turpentine, especially when they are engaged in the process of " flatting." The symptoms are those of prostration, coldness, constipation, giddiness, headache, which lasts for many hours, impairment of appetite, and anmemia. These disorders are produced from the use of turpentine varnishes as well as from paints. Some workmen escape the action almost altogether; others are so susceptible that they will rather pay more favored men to perform the work than do it themselves.

The mode of action of turpentine on the body is not yet fully understood. Turpentine rapidly inhaled as a vapor produces sleep, like chloroform, and it has been used on an emergency as a sub stitute for chloroform in order to bring on anesthesia. A key to its action was given some years ago by Dr. L. C. Roche, who, in commenting upon the researches of Marchal de Calvi, relates an interesting fact told to him by the illustrious chemist Thenard. It is that Thenard, having analyzed the atmospheric air of a cel lar which had become poisonously charged with the vapor of tur pentine, found that all the oxygen had been removed, and that nitrogen alone remained. Hence Roche assumes that turpentine produces its bad effects by depriving the air of oxygen. I believe this theory to be sound, but it does not explain all the facts. A more recent research by Dr. Liernsh has proved, by direct experi ment, that turpentine vapor causes paralysis of the vessels of the minute circulation, with congestion of the brain and of the other large vascular organs.

workmen, produces, lead and action