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In the NINETEENTH century it became fashionable to decorate the walls of a room with wallpaper of a deep green color, which is obtained from the pigments prepared with arsenic and copper. Known in Europe as green Scheele, in honor of the Swedish chemist Karl W Scheele. Their manufacture was simple and very cheap, being affordable to all pockets.

Mary Magdalen (1859), Frederic Sandys, shows a wallpaper background emerald green that could contain arsenic – Delaware Art Museum

Sadly, we are not told that the humidity and the temperature of the rooms favour the growth of fungi and bacteria in those walls and that some of those microorganisms transformed arsenic in trihidruro of arsenic, a colorless, flammable and highly toxic.

The poisonings by this semimetal were relatively common at that time and it is not difficult to find in the newspapers cartoons, images of skeletons, that look suits of emerald green, surrounded by a cloud of dust poison.

The arsenic was not the only element in the periodic table that wreaked havoc on unsuspecting bourgeois of the NINETEENTH century, also had its parcel of responsibility in the lead.

At that time the children’s toys were enameled in bright colors to attract the attention of the little ones. These glazes had high levels of lead, which produced in some cases chronic poisoning –lead poisoning-, which damaged the digestive system and the nervous system of the child.

The number one enemy of the medical

The women left the layers of starched petticoats of their grandmothers and replaced by the crinoline or hoop skirt. Basically it consisted of a rigid structure in the form of a cage on which one had the skirt of the dress, so take a silhouette flared.

The main problem of this gadget was that it could attach easily, if it approached to a source of heat and it was practically impossible to get rid of him in that situation. It is estimated that in this century died more than forty thousand women all over the world as a result of the burns caused by wearing crinoline.

The fashionable victorian imposed another femenine garment, the corset. If we ignore a scientific paper -published in 1874 – this outfit was responsible for up to ninety-seven different diseases. On that list included disorders such as the so-called “chest wheezing”, the indigestiones, dizziness, internal bleeding, some states of hysteria, and even melancholy.

The bottle killer

In the NINETEENTH century was introduced into the homes gas as a source of brightness and heating. As it is easy to assume your usage is not counted with the current security measures, the systems lacked key step, and the control of the flow left much to be desired.

If we look at the newspaper archives of the time we will not have a job to find out news detailing explosions and nocturnal deaths “silent” of all members of the family.

The babies either were oblivious to the dangers of “progress”. The industrial revolution was a social change of the first order, was dropped from the craft and gave way to the industry. The models of the bottles, up to that time of pewter, silver, wood or ceramics, manufactured in monopiezas and difficult to clean, they were cornered.

were to give way to models designed in two parts –body and nipple – more hygienic and manufactured on a large scale. The access to this type of bottles brought so added a social change, disappeared the suckler -housewives-of-milk – and came up with the “nannies”, who were not among its competences breastfeeding and, therefore, his salary was lower.

Bottle Robert, advertisement of 1882 – Wikipedia

One of the bottles most popular was the Edouard Robert, consisted of a long tube with a vial in its interior and a cap perforated by passing a conduit external of rubber connected to a nipple.

Its design was revolutionary, but clean-up was greatly impaired, so that it became a real zoo of microorganisms. It was soon known commonly with the name of “bottle killer”. Such was the mortality associated with their use, which in 1910 was prohibited from marketing.

In the end, this is only a sample of the currencies that are incorporated in the households of the NINETEENTH century and the dangers that they wore evenly.

Pedro Gargantilla is a internist in the Hospital of El Escorial (Madrid), and author of several popular books.