View original document

The full text on this page is automatically extracted from the file linked above and may contain errors and inconsistencies.

JAMES J. DAVIS, Secretary



. . . .








Of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

M AY, 1926






Chemical properties o f phosphorus------------------------------------------------------4,5
Symptoms and treatment of chronic phosphorus poisoning_____________
Manufacture of phosphorus fireworks in the United States---------------------- 6-14
7, 8
Description o f phosphorus fireworks_______________________________
Composition of phosphorus fireworks_____________________________
Process of manufacture____________________________________________
Working conditions in the fireworks industry_____________________ 10-12
Washing and lunch-room facilities_____________________________
Dental and medical care_____________________________________
Hazard_______________________________________________________ 11,12
Wages-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 12,13
Length of employment in plant and on phosphorus processes_______13,14
Preparation of white (yellow) and red phosphorus---------------------------------15,16
Cases of phosphorus necrosis___________________________________________16-30
Medical histories________ ’_________________________________________ 19-30
Plant No. 1___________________________________________________ 19-20
Plant No. 2__________________________________________________ _ 21-24
Plant No. 3___________________________________________________ 24-29
Phosphorus preparation plant_________________________________ 29, 30
Manufacture of rat paste--------------------------------------------------------------------30-32
Legal provisions relating to phosphorus------------------------------------------------ 32-35
Employment of children in phosphorus processes___________________
Employment of women in phosphorus processes____________________ 32,33
Reporting of cases of phosphorus necrosis__________________________
Periodical physical examinations__________________________________ 33,34
Compensation for chronic phosphorus poisoning___________________ 34, 35
Summary and conclusion----------------------------------------------------- ---------------- 35-37
Appendix A.— Phosphorus necrosis in the match industry______________ 38-40
Appendix B.—Phosphorus poisoning in Great Britain after 1915________40,41
Appendix C.—Acute phosphorus poisoning from fireworks____________ 41-43
Appendix D.—Case of phosphorus necrosis in exterminator industry in
New Zealand_________________________________________ 43-44




NO. 405


May, 1926


Phosphorus necrosis, though not so appalling in the number of
victims it claims, is one of the most disfiguring and horrible of all
the occupational diseases. Phosphorus was the first industrial poison
to become the subject of international legislation, and because of the
intense suffering and often shocking deformity resulting from the
disease almost every civilized country has taken measures to abolish
the use of poisonous phosphorus in the match industry, where chronic
phosphorus poisoning was most prevalent.1
In Europe, before resorting to prohibition of the use of poisonous
phosphorus, every type of regulation was tried in the various coun­
tries. Among the measures resorted to were the limitation of the
amount of phosphorus to 10 per cent ; the requirement of certain
types of ventilating machinery; the insistence on factories especially
arranged for such manufacture according to regulations, specifying
location and size of rooms, type of walls, floor, and ventilating appa­
ratus; regular dental and medical inspection; limitation of hours;
change of occupation; reporting of cases of necrosis; posted notices
of the danger of the occupation; special clothing; and furnishing of
mouth wash. In Great Britain, Oliver made the following recom­
mendations :
I f white phosphorus is to continue to be used in this country it is absolutely
necessary that such structural alterations should be made in factories which
will separate the mixing, dipping, drying, and boxing rooms from each other,
and that each should be thoroughly ventilated by fa n s; that each dipping table
should be so thoroughly ventilated by a fan that the fumes can not rise
upward toward the worker beyond an inch or two from the slab, but must be
drawn toward the fa n ; that the boxing rooms should be lofty and ventilated
by fans; that ventilating hoods or shafts should be placed above each bench
so that the fumes are drawn away from the worker as she fills the boxes. * * *
Provision should be made for washing; soap and towels should be provided
by the firm, and facilities for washing should be offered to the workpeople,
not in the open yard of the factory exposed to all kinds o f weather, but in a
room or shed. Gargles should be provided and each worker should have
his own mug. Overalls should be worn, and there should be dental and
medical inspection o f the workpeople on entering the factory and at stated
intervals afterwards. There should be a change of occupation for the workers;
men alid women should not be allowed to remain more than a few weeks at
a time in any one department. The mixing of the phosphorus paste should
be done in closed vessels and the paste kept until required in covered iron
tanks. Plans of new factories and of proposed structural alterations in old
1 See Appendix A, p. 38, fo r a general account o f the situation in the m atch industry.




factories should be submitted to the Home Office.
should be kept in the factory.2

A medical and dental register

In spite of the stringent regulations, irksome to the manufacturer
and annoying to the worker, cases of phosphorus necrosis continued
to appear, and prohibition of the poisonous phosphorus seemed the
only solution. In 1906 the international treaty of Berne, pro­
hibiting the manufacture, importation, and sale of matches con­
taining white (yellow) phosphorus,3 was signed by Germany, Den­
mark, France, Italy, Luxemburg, Switzerland, and the Nether­
lands. In the report of the director of the International Labor
Office for 1925 most of the nations of the world are listed as signa­
tories of the Berne convention. In addition to the seven coun­
tries that signed the treaty in 1906, Great Britain, South Africa,
New Zealand, Canada, India, Norway, Spain, Belgium, China,
Czechoslovakia, Esthonia, Finland, Japan, Poland, and the Free
City of Danzig have since adhered to the treaty. Argentina and
Greece have adopted measures embodying the terms of the treaty.
The Chilean Government in 1923 laid before the national congress
a proposal for the approval of the treaty. Hungary adhered to the
convention in 1925.a
In the United States, a law was passed in 1912 imposing a tax
of 2 cents per hundred on all white phosphorus matches manu­
factured after July 1, 1913, and prohibiting the importation of such
matches after that date and the exportation after July 1, 1914. The
Diamond Match Co., which held the patent for nonpoisonous (sesquisulphide of phosphorus) matches, generously allowed the use of
the patent to the other match manufacturers.
It seemed, then, that “ phossy jaw,” as the disease was called on
account of the characteristic swollen jaw, was a thing of the past.
In recent years, however, the disease has reappeared. Doctor Legge,
chief medical inspector of factories in Great Britain, notes in his
report for 1918 the recrudescence of “ phossy jaw ” in the preparation
of phosphorus.4
In spite of the increased use of white or yellow phosphorus during
the war period as a smoke-screen producer, as an incendiary agent,
and also to terrorize enemy troops when used in Stokes mortar shells,
Livens projectors, and hand grenades, no cases of phosphorus necrosis
thus caused are recorded in England or the United States. Doctor
Hamilton mentions two cases of phosphorous necrosis that developed
in France during the war in the manufacture of incendiary bombs.5
A recent article in a medical journal states that the use of white (or
yellow) phosphorus in America during the World War had reached
the tremendous amount of 1,006 tons at the time of the armistice;6
between 20 and 40 workers were employed for four or five months
in a Government plant in making munitions containing phosphorus
2 Great Britain. Home Department. Reports on the use o f phosphorus in the manu­
facture o f lucifer matches, by P rof. T. E. Thorpe, P rof. Thom as Oliver, and Dr. George
Cunningham. London, 1899, p. 96. [C. 9188.]
8 W hite phosphorus becomes yellow when exposed to light.
a Industrial and Labor Inform ation, International Labor Office, Geneva, Dec. 21, 1925,
p. 3.
4 See Appendix B, p. 40.
6 Hamilton, A lice : Industrial P oisons in the United States, New York, the M acmillan
Co., 1925, p. 315.
6 Journal o f American M edical A ssociation, May 23, 1925, p. 1569. “ Treatm ent for
w hite phosphorus burns,” by Duncan O. W alton.



(four workers form the ordinary peace-time force), but apparently
there were no cases of phosphorus necrosis so far as is known.
The present-day hazard of phosphorus poisoning, according to
Dublin, occurs among boneblack makers, brass founders, fertilizer
makers, fireworks makers, insecticide makers, match-factory work­
ers, phosphate-mill workers, phosphor-bronze workers, phosphoruscompound makers, and phosphorus extractors.7
Only one case has apparently been reported in the phosphorbronze industry.6
It is said that white (yellow) phosphorus is also used as a substitute
for camphor in the manufacture of celluloid when the price of cam­
phor is high.8
Because of the recent occurrence of cases of chronic phosphorus
poisoning in the fireworks industry, and in the extraction of phos­
phorus in the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics made
an investigation of conditions in these industries during the spring
and summer of 1925 to determine the extent of the evil. As some
plants manufacturing rat poison make a paste of which phos­
phorus is an ingredient, these were also studied in order to ascertain
whether any cases of phosphorus necrosis had developed, and
whether phosphorus presents a real industrial hazard in these plants.
There are 57 establishments manufacturing fireworks in the United
States, according to the 1920 census, but only 3 use white (yellow)
phosphorus, and these were covered by the bureau’s study. Twelve
plants using white or yellow phosphorus as one of the ingredients of
their rat paste were also investigated. Only two factories in the
United States have been preparing white (yellow) phosphorus,
and one of these has been closed for a number of years; information
was obtained from the managers of both plants.
In addition to the paramount hazard of chronic poisoning, phos­
phorus fireworks present two collateral hazards—that of explosion
and that of acute poisoning.
If the mixture from which the fireworks are made is not prepared
with extreme care, the finished composition is very sensitive to fric­
tion. The ratio of chlorate to phosphorus must be correct and the
mixture so prepared that the phosphorus is distributed in micro­
scopic particles, each one contained in a protective sac of gum arabic.
If the sawdust in which the fireworks are shipped packs too tightly
at one end of the box during shipment, leaving a space at the other
end, the sensitive composition is frequently brought into direct con­
tact with the shipping container and a shock on the outside of the
box will ignite the composition. (In the last 15 years 18 fires or
explosions due to phosphorus fireworks have been reported.0 The
danger of explosion occurs during the shipment or storage of the
finished product and constitutes a hazard for employees handling
the product during the course of distribution to retail dealers, and
7 United States Bureau o f Labor Statistics Bulletin No. 3 0 6 : Occupation hazards and
diagnostic signs, by Louis I. Dublin and Philip Leiboff. W ashington, April, 1922, p. 26.
b International Association fo r Labor Legislation. Les Industries Salubres, Jena, 1903,
p. 123.
8 United States. Congress. Senate Committee on Finance. Hearings on the proposed
tariff act o f 1921 (H . R. 7456), Schedule I : Chemicals, oils, and paints. W ashington,
1922, p. 1284.
International Hygiene Bulletin, published by the New York State Departm ent o f
Labor, December, 1924, Vol. I, No. 6, p. 22.



thus is to this extent an industrial hazard.9 This danger from
explosion also constitutes a hazard of production, especially in the
mixing, as well as of distribution. Marshall in his book on explo­
sives states that mixtures of chlorates with phosphorus are consid­
ered more dangerous than those with sulphur, and their use in
England was restricted in 1905.10
The danger of acute phosphorus poisoning from fireworks is not
likely to be an industrial hazard. Such cases are usually those of
poisoning in children who swallow the lozenges thinking that they
are candy. In this respect the phosphorus fireworks constitute a
danger the extent of which is unknown. As this is not an industrial
hazard, however, only passing attention was paid to it in the present
investigation, and no effort was made to secure the total number of
such accidents. The cases of acute phosphorus poisoning of children
obtained from medical records of physicians, hospitals, and bureaus
of vital statistics and reproduced in Appendix C of this report (pp.
41 to 43) show vividly the result of the child’s contact with the play­
thing. One State, Louisiana, has prohibited the sale of such fire­
works in the State, and a large distributor of fireworks has refused
to handle the phosphorus type and has so notified its customers.

There are two kinds of phosphorus used industrially—white phos­
phorus, which becomes yellow when exposed to light and is very
poisonous, and red phosphorus (obtained by heating white (yellow)
phosphorus to about 288° C. in a closed vessel), which is nonpoisonous when pure.
Phosphorus (white or yellow) was prepared for the first time by
Brand in Hamburg about the year 1670. It has the appearance of
somewhat transparent white wax and has a specific gravity of 1.83.
It is soft and can be cut with a knife, but becomes brittle at 0°, melts
at 44.4° C, increasing in volume, and boils at 287° C. When exposed
to the light it becomes brownish yellow. Moist phosphorus oxidizes
rapidly, catching'fire spontaneously in the air with the formation
of white fumes. It is luminous in the dark.
White phosphorus is a powerful poison and 0.1 gram is sufficient *
to cause death. In cases of phosphorus poisoning it is found ab­
sorbed in the liver (which is distended), in the blood, and in the ex­
pired air. The antidote consists of 1 gram of copper sulphate dis­
solved in half a liter of water.
Red phosphorus was discovered by Schrotter in 1845. It consists
of an apparently amorphous, bright reddish-brown powder without
odor, has a specific gravity of 2.19,r2is not phosphorescent in the dark,
does not alter in the air, and is not set on fire by friction. It is not
poisonous, is insoluble in carbon disulpliide, and catches fire only at
a temperature above 200° C. When heated rapidly to 260° in an at­
mosphere of carbon dioxide it is transformed into vapors of ordi9 New York. Department o f Labor. Division o f industrial hygiene. Industrial H y­
giene Bulletin, September, 1924. “ The menace o f phosphorus fireworks,” by C. V. Sails.
10 M arshall, A r th u r : Explosives, Vol. II, Properties and Tests, p. 611. Philadelphia,
P. Blakistons Son & Co., 1917.
11 Data are from Molinari, E tt o r e : Treatise on General and Industrial Inorganic
Chemistry, translated by Thom as H. Pope.
Philadelphia, P. B lackiston’s Son & Co.
1920, pp. 402-407.
d A ccording to M ellor (M odern Inorganic Chemistry, p. 582) the specific gravity or
red phosphorus varies from, 2.05 to 2.39. Schrotter found that its specific gravity varied
from 2.089 to 2.106 at 17° C. and that it was 1.90 at 10° C.



nary yellow phosphorus. It does not melt even at a red heat, but
at 1009 slowly gives off vapors. When heated for a long time to 360°
in sealed tubes red phosphorus is transformed into black phosphorus.

The vapor of white phosphorus, when pure, is said by Schonbein to
be odorless; the odor that is perceived is a mixture of ozone and
phosphorous oxide.12

The symptoms of chronic phosphorus poisoning are given in the
list of industrial poisons prepared by the International Association
for Labor Legislation.13 According to this authority, phosphorus
enters the body in the form of vapor through the respiratory organs,
by means of food contaminated by the fingers, or by action on the
As industrial poisoning it occurs only in the chronic form, occasioned by the
absorption of very minute particles of the poison for a period of months, gen­
erally, indeed, of years. Symptoms of the disease sometimes first appear long
after relinquishment of the occupation.
It is doubtful whether chronic phosphorism occurs (that is, general sys­
tematic poisoning by phosphorus).
Chronic phosphorus poisoning uniformly affects the bones of the face,, begin­
ning with inflammation and sclerosis of the bones and of the periosteum; then,
by extension of the suppurative process, necrosis results. This most frequently
attacks that portion of the alveolar process of the jawbone which is least
protected against infection.
Swelling and ulcerations on the gums and the buccal mucous membrane, pain
even in the sound teeth, loosening and falling out o f the teeth, infiltration of
boardlike hardness occcurs in the soft parts surrounding the ja w ; suppuration
and destruction of the jawbone (necrosis) with numerous fistulous channels
which here and there burrow through the cheek. Hand in hand with the
ulcerative processes go osteoplastic formations, so that, while suppurative
destruction of tissue takes place at one point, at another the formation o f new
bone Is going on. The under jaw is more often affected than the upper; here
the process goes on insidiously without formation of new bone but with local
destruction of the part. The palatal and orbital bones may be attacked
with ulceration and shrinking of the eyeball. By extension of the inflammation
along the sheaths of the vessels there result meningeal inflammation and
cerebral abscess.
There is remarkable brittleness of the bones, decline of appetite, pallid com­
plexion, diarrhea, emaciation. Sometimes there is amyloid degeneration of
the abdominal organs. Death by sepsis.

Special measures of relief recommended include the prohibition of
the use of white (yellow) phosphorus wherever possible; exclu­
sion of workers having dental caries; after the extraction of a tooth
at least two weeks’ exclusion from the employment; change of occu­
pation; improvement in the general health. There is no specific
medical treatment. In appropriate cases, operative intervention is
Oliver, in his book on Dangerous Trades, analyzes the causes of
phosphorus necrosis and gives the symptoms of the disease with
special reference to workers in the match industry, as follows:
It is difficult to say what is the actual cause o f necrosis of the jawbone in
lucifer matchmakers. As to whether it is a primary lesion or one secondary
12 Oliver, T h om a s: Dangerous Trades. London, John Murray, 1902, pp. 418, 419.
13 U. S. Department o f Commerce and Labor, Bureau o f Labor Bui. No. 100. Wash­
ington, May, 1912, p. 755.
(T ranslation by Dr. W illiam H. Rand, o f the U. S.
Bureau o f Labor, o f list o f industrial poisons prepared by the International Association
fo r Labor Legislation.)



to a general or constitutional form o f poisoning, medical opinion is still
divided. Most writers attribute the disease of the bone to the fumes o f
phosphorus, i. e., to the oxides of phosphorus acting upon the decayed teeth of
the workpeople. The fumes are supposed to penetrate a carious tooth and
induce a periostitis or inflammation of the covering of the bone. The gum
becomes swollen and painful. To such an extent has this been regarded as
the explanation of the cause of necrosis that two o f the large match works in
this country had at their own expense appointed dentists to examine and keep
in good order the teeth of the workpeople. Subsequently the home office, as a
result of the opinions expressed at an arbitration with the match manufac­
turers, decided to accept periodical examination o f the teeth o f the work­
people by a qualified dentist as a substitute for medical inspection. While
regarding decayed teeth as a necessary preliminary to inflammation o f the
dental socket, Roussel holds that it is phosphoric acid that is the destructive
agent. Gubler and Lailler, on the other hand, maintain that they have met
with phosphorus necrosis in the inferior jaw of a matchmaker whose teeth were
perfectly sound, and that if phosphoric acid were the destructive agent the
teeth ought to become softened and translucent. Gubler holds, but on what
grounds we do not know, that it is phosphorus itself that penetrates into the
soft tissues and destroys the nutrition of the covering o f the bone. Under all
circumstances “ phossy ja w ” is a painful affection, especially in the early
stages, and although naturally it might be expected to occur with greater
readiness in workpeople who are ill-nourished, scrofulous, or tubercular, yet
I have seen it in male and female matchmakers who were physically strong
and otherwise perfectly healthy. This circumstance, therefore, is rather in
favor of phosphorus necrosis being in the first instance a local affection and
primary. Once suppuration occurs, the painful tooth removed, and the pus
thereby allowed to escape, pain is subsequently not a marked feature in the
As the periosteum is usually separated, the affected portion o f bone lying
underneath dies and is exfoliated. A piece of bone varying from half an inch
to 3 inches is thus thrown off. * The process o f separation of the bone by
ulceration is extremely slow. It may extend over months or years if the bone
is not surgically treated, and all this time there is a constant oozing o f pus
into the mouth of the patient, some of which must be swallowed along with
the food, thereby undermining the health and causing anemia or cachexia, or
during sleep it may trickle down the throat into the respiratory passages and
set up an unhealthy inflammation of the lining membrane, or it indirectly pre­
pares the way for tubercular disease of the lungs. Either jaw may become
necrosed. I f anything, the inferior maxilla is more frequently affected than
the superior. When the upper jaw is diseased there is a tendency for the
inflammation to extend to the base o f the skull and to induce a septic in­
flammation of the membranes of the brain, which is invariably fatal.14

In discussing the treatment of phosphorus necrosis among match­
makers, Oliver also gives the percentage of cures claimed by the
advocates of the various methods. Doctor Garman, of Bow, treating
his cases by the expectant method and allowing the sequestrum to be
naturally separated, found that 83 per cent of his cases recovered;
the practice of Kocher, of Berne, was to remove by a surgical opera­
tion the affected portion of bone, and 83.7 per cent of his cases re­
covered; while Kniper, of Jena, treating his patients on similar
lines to Kocher, had 89 per cent of recoveries.15

Phosphorus fireworks were probably introduced into the United
States about 1904, when two patents were taken out for this type of
pyrotechnical compound, one (No. 759387, May 10, 1904) by Marius
Magnard, a citizen of the French Republic, and the other (No.
o m a s:
»14 Oliver,p.T h426,

Dangerous Trades.

London, John M urray, 1902, pp. 423, 424.



775822, November 22, 1904) by Karl Hufnagel, of Germany; 16 the
latter patent was assigned to Edward H. Wagner, of New York City,
and was later bought by one of the companies now manufacturing
phosphorus fireworks.
A pyrotechnist began making experiments in detonating fireworks,
containing white (yellow) phosphorus, about 1904, and started to
manufacture on a small scale in Belleville, N. J., later moving to
Erie, Pa. His product— called at that time “crazy crackers”—was
sold mostly in the South. About 1908 he was manufacturing phos­
phorus fireworks near Newark, N. J. In 1917 he was making the
same type of fireworks, under the name of “ automatic torpedoes,” at
a large fireworks plant. Later he manufactured a similar product,
under the name of “ spit devil ” in another State. In each instance,
though the trade name varied, the composition was almost identi­
cally the same.
About 1904 the present superintendent of one of the factories
manufacturing phosphorus fireworks, who claims to have been the
first to make detonating fireworks containing phosphorus, started
to manufacture them in St. Louis, and later in Memphis, Tenn., and
in 1905 took charge of the fireworks factory where he is now super­
Of the three factories now using white (yellow) phosphorus in
manufacturing fireworks, one began to make this type of fireworks
in 1905, the second about 1909, and the third about 1918.

Phosphorus fireworks are, in general, small disks about one-eighth
to one-quarter of an inch thick and 1 inch in diameter, with a cover­
ing of red or black paper, though in some instances sand has been
used for a coating and sometimes a black composition coating of
pitch and naphthalene has been employed. Occasionally, larger sizes,
1y2 or 2 inches in diameter, are made. These detonating fireworks
are discharged by being placed on the sidewalk and then struck by
the heel or some heavy object, causing them to explode with con­
siderable noise in a series of explosions in rapid succession, at the
same time giving out bright flashes of light and jumping from place
to place. During the explosion a slightly luminous flame is given
off and the characteristic odor of phosphorus can be noticed.
One firm manufactures also a toy called a “tank,” which consists
of a small gray pasteboard container, imitating a tank, and holding
a combustible carrier sheet of tissue paper on which are mounted 30
small pastilles of the phosphorus compound, arranged at regular
intervals. The fireworks are ignited by a fuse attached by an ad­
hesive to the carrier sheet, and extending through a hole in the top
of the tank. This toy explodes in the same manner as the other phos­
phorus fireworks.
The jumping jack made by the same firm and labeled a “Box of
concentrated noise ” is a similar toy, consisting of a small red paste­
board box about 1% inches square with a large circular opening in
the top through which the carrier sheet is ignited. ’The carrier sheet
16 T his form ula is reported to have been patented in Spain.



is similar to that in the tank, except that it has 24 instead of 30
Various names are given to these detonating fireworks. One
factory calls its product a “ spit-devil ” ; another uses the trade name
of “ son-of-a-gun,” and also manufactures the “ automatic torpedo” ;
still a third uses the name “ devil-on-the-walk,” and, for a slightly
different form of fireworks, “ jumping jacks” and “ tanks”. This
toy is popularly called in the South “ dancing devil ” ; and occasion­
ally “ nigger chaser,” but erroneously, for that is a patented name
of another tvpe of fireworks. “ Crazy cracker ” and “ Dixie cricket ”
are names that have been applied to the same type of fireworks but
are no longer in use. “ Holy terror stick ” has also been used.
“ Bingoes,” “ cracoes,” and “ flappers ” are also designations used
for phosphorus fireworks.

The form’ula for the pyrotechnical compound as given in Patent
No. 775822, which was assigned to Wagner, consists of the following
constituents: White (yellow) phosphorus, 1 part; red phosphorus, 1
part; potassium chlorate, 3 parts; red clay, 2 parts; and gum arabic,
5 parts. The composition of the phosphorus fireworks made in one
of the plants studied is given as follows: Gum arabic sirup, 10
quarts; phosphorus, 1 pound, 14 ounces (7 sticks); magnesia, 3
po'unds, 6 ounces; red mineral, 5y2 pounds; and chlorate of potash,
6 pounds. Still another factory uses the following form’ula: Gum
arabic, 40 pounds; white phosphorus, 7% pounds; carbonate of mag­
nesium, I 314 pounds; red ocher, 22 pounds; and chlorate of potash,
25 pounds.
A more recent patent (No. 1433100) taken out October 24, 1922,
it is claimed, prevents the irritating acid fumes which phosphorus
gives off when it oxidizes in the presence of air, by combining
phosphorus with certain organic bases of high boiling point which
take up or absorb the fumes of phosphoric oxide as formed and
neutralize them, while serving at the same time to protect the phos­
phorus against too ready an oxidation.
Broadly stated, the nonfuming phosphorus composition consists of
a mixture of 32 parts phosphorus, 2 parts of alphanaphthylamine,
and 4 parts of dimethylaniline. To mask the slight odor or the or­
ganic bases, a small quantity of a fragrant essential oil, such as oil of
sassafras, may be added to the composition. The composition may be
used by itself or in admixture with chlorate of potash and the other
ingredients usually employed for matchmaking compositions and
for certain types of pyrotechnical devices. The claim is made that
this compound is safer and less injurious than the others to handle
Chemical analysis of three samples of one type of phosphorus
fireworks showed: In the first, 5 per cent of phosphorus, equivalent to
2.91 grains; in the second, 3.97 per cent of phosphorus, equivalent to
2.44 grains; and in the third, 6.50 per cent of phosphorus, equivalent
to 4.63 grains.
In analyzing another type of phosphorus fireworks, weighing 3.50
grams, 0.2128 grams of phosphorus were found, or 6.08 per cent.



An analysis of a third type of phosphorus fireworks showed 4.39
per cent phosphorus, or 0.0966 grams of phosphorus, where the total
weight was 2.20 grams.

The manufacture of phosphorus fireworks consists of five proc­
esses—the preparation of the paste or mixture, molding, drying,
wrapping, and packing.
The preparation of the paste, or “ soup 55 as it is sometimes called,
varies little in the three factories. The composition is mixed in a
double-jacket kettle with automatic paddle. Gum arabic and water
are dissolved to a syruplike consistency, and white (yellow) phos­
phorus is added when the solution is heated enough to melt it.
Carbonate of magnesium is then stirred into the mixture and later
red ochre is added, and finally chlorate of potash is thoroughly
stirred into the preparation.
Usually only one person—a man—is employed in mixing, and
since the machinery is now automatic there is not the constant con­
tact with, the fumes that there was in the earlier days when the
stirring was done by hand. The mixer usually dips out the paste
from the kettle into a large bucket or pan, and sometimes carries
it to the molding room as needed, or puts it into a shed out of doors
easily accessible to the molders. In only one factory was there any
ventilating system in the mixing room to carry off the “ fume,” and
that was out of order the day the plant was visited. The odor
usually associated with phosphorus is quite noticeable in the mix­
ing room, and some fume is always rising from the paste. Only
one mixer has developed phosphorus necrosis, however.
After the paste has cooled it is molded into lozenges, wrapped, and
dried ready for packing. By a newer method, partly automatic,
which, is in use in two plants, the order of the above processes is
reversed, the toy being first molded, then dried, and finally wrapped.
This process has not yet been patented and is a trade secret.
The older process, at one time used by all three plants manu­
facturing this type of fireworks and still employed in one factory
(plant No. 3), combines the molding and wrapping process, these
being done almost simultaneously by one worker. The worker
(women are usually employed on this process) fills a small pan with
the paste and places it on the table in front of her. Over a card­
board about 8 by 12 inches she places the mold, usually an aluminum
plate, with holes the size of the lozenge desired. With a spoon, flat­
tened at the bowl end, the molder dips out the proper amount of paste,
places it on a square of red or black tissue paper, which has been
fitted into the mold, and folds the paper over securely. While
the worker is closing the tissue paper at the top with one hand,
with the other she reaches for another dip of the paste. When the
mold is filled she lifts it off the cardboard, leaving the completed
lozenges, which are then, placed at one side. After being counted
and checked, the disks are taken to the drying room opening into
the molding room, where woman workers spread the damp lozenges
on wire screening to dry. The finished product is packed in saw­
dust in small pasteboard containers by women, and these are later
packed in large wooden boxes for shipping.



Ventilating apparatus to remove the dangerous fumes assists in
lessening the hazard. In only one plant (No. 2) covered by the
bureau’s survey, however, was an exhaust system in use. This factory
had outside one window of the wrapping room a 30-inch ventilator
connected with an electric motor. One large pipe, extending from
the ventilator over the wrapping table, divided into six small pipes
which in turn branched into two arms, one going to each side of the
table where the girls were wrapping the fireworks. In the molding
room of this factory a 24-inch (York) fan was installed; in the mix­
ing room there was an 18-inch fan but it was not operating the day
the plant was visited. The ventilating engineer who installed the
system claimed that the air in the room could be changed every five
minutes, but the manager stated that the air was changed every
minute after improvements in the system had been made.
All of the plants had many windows in almost every room, and
doors and windows were kept open as much as possible. (The plants
were visited in mild weather, when this method of ventilation was
possible.) The mixing in one factory was done in a semiinclosed
shed, and after the composition had been mixed the buckets were kept
in another shed out of doors where they were accessible to the molders
who filled their pans there.

It is possible that, in addition to the fume, particles of phosphorus
paste carried by the hands to the mouth also constitute a danger.
Since it is important to have hands thoroughly clean before eating,
there should be proper arrangements for washing. The phosphorusfireworks plants are situated in small villages or on the outskirts of
towns, and sanitary equipment is inadequate; toilets are located out
of doors, and washing facilities are meager. In one factory an outside
hydrant is the only place for washing; in another plant a long trough
with running water is generally used for getting rid of the particles
of phosphorus. On the day the plant was visited water of a deep
red color from the phosphorus paste was standing in the trough. It
was stated that the trough was cleaned out every noon, but when a
second visit was made in the afternoon conditions were the same.
Soft soap was furnished in two plants, and paper towels in one and
waste in the other, for drying the hands. On the day the former
plant was visited, the paper-towel cabinet was empty.

One of the essentials in a plant where dangerous chemicals are
used is a separate lunch room. No such provision was made in
the plants studied, except that one establishment had a small cloak­
room where lunches could be eaten. One employer said a lunch
room had been provided, but had not been used and had therefore
been taken over for other purposes. The employees were told not
to eat in the rooms where they worked, and in good weather usually
ate out of doors, but admitted that in bad weather they sometimes
ate inside. Many workers went home to lunch.




Since phosphorus necrosis seems in most cases to occur when the
workers have decayed teeth, dental care in the factory is very im­
portant. One plant furnishes a mouth wash (Dakin’s solution)
to its employees, and another provides bicarbonate of soda to be
used at home. In two plants dental service is provided by the
companies and it was claimed that regular inspections were made
of all employees’ teeth. In practice, however, the visits of the den­
tist do not seem to be so frequent as was originally intended. Those
needing dental treatment are given it without charge. The dentists
are given careful instructions to refer any employee who shows the
slightest tendency to develop a necrosed condition to a specialist
whom the plant pays. One factory estimated that two years ago
the dentist’s bill was $1,700 and last year $1,500. Another plant
paid its dentist $500 in one year.
Workers who have teeth extracted and returned to work before
the jaw has healed seem peculiarly liable to phosphorus necrosis.
The plant which does not employ a dentist does not permit its em­
ployees to return to work after extraction of a tooth until the
wound is completely healed. The manager of this plant stated he
had not known the work was dangerous until one girl who had
had a tooth extracted contracted phosphorus necrosis and died.
No physical examinations are given to workers at the time of
employment and there is no systematic medical inspection. One
factory which employs a medical officer reported that during a period
of four months 15 accidents occurred in the whole plant; o f these
3 occurred in the phosphorus department, as did also 4
cases of infected fingers due to alkaline silicate of soda finding
its way under the finger nail., There was also one arrested case
of tuberculosis in the phosphorus department, coming from a family
in which there is active tuberculosis, and an active case of pulmo­
nary tuberculosis in another department, coming from a family hav­
ing several deaths from this disease. Another factory sends its em­
ployees to be examined by the Life Extension Institute. This plant
has the services of the local health officer when needed.

The greatest hazards in the use of white (yellow) phosphorus are
connected with processes where workers are exposed to the fumes of
phosphorus. These fumes, which are given off in the process of
oxidation, consist chiefly of phosphoric oxide, some phosphorus
oxide, and phosphorus.
The older method of combined molding and wrapping is the most
hazardous process in the manufacture of phosphorus fireworks. In
the plant where this method is still used it was found that the women
were paid on a piece-rate basis and, in order to increase their earn­
ings, often sat close to the table with heads bent over their work in
their eagerness to complete as large a number of fireworks as possi­
ble. A rag was kept on the table beside each worker to remove any
particles of phosphorus paste which clung to the hands. Though the
women washed these rags, they said, many times a day, fumes were
continually rising from them, as well as from the pan of “soup,” and



the characteristic odor of phosphorus could be plainly detected the
day the plant was visited, although the doors and windows were wide
In this same plant where it is the practice to have the damp loz­
enges spread out to dry by woman workers, the drying room, which
opens into the molding room, offers somewhat of a hazard.
The packing of phosphorus fireworks offers practically no hazard,
except possibly a slight danger of explosions.
The danger from explosion and fire has caused the fireworks manu­
facturers to build, instead of one large plant, a number of small de­
tached, usually fireproof buildings. One plant has 22, another 25
small buildings. Most of the plants had a separate room and in some
cases a separate building for practically every process. The mixing
is always done in a separate building, for the danger from explosion
constitutes a particular hazard in the mixing room, though actual
explosions are infrequent.
There are no signs in any of the three plants to warn the workers
of the danger, except occasional labels similar to the ones pasted on
the small pasteboard boxes, in packing, containing the following
Poison, if swallowed.
Antidote: Give emetics and purgatives.
Do not give milk, eggs, fats, or oils.
Secure medical treatment immediately.

This warns the worker of the danger of acute phosphorus poison­
ing, but of the danger of chronic poisoning and the necessary precau­
tions against it no notice is posted. Such instructions and warnings
were given verbally, it was claimed.
In all the plants the employees for the most part now realize that
the work is dangerous, and that there is a possibility of contracting
“ phossy jaw,” though in the earlier days of the manufacture of phos­
phorus fireworks the workers were usually ignorant of the hazard.
Several workers who have developed phosphorus necrosis have
brought claims for compensation or damages, and their cases are
known to practically all their fellow employees.

Workers in phosphorus processes are usually paid higher wages
than are paid to workers in nonphosphorus processes, on account
of the hazard. In some cases the increased earnings make the
worker willing to risk contracting phosphorus poisoning. In one
plant, employees who are still under treatment for phosphorus necro­
sis and are now working in nonphosphorus processes, stated frankly
they would go back “ to-morrow ” to the phosphorus process, if the
doctor would permit, in order to increase their earnings. Some of
the former workers" in the other two plants, however, who had con­
tracted phosphorus necrosis declared they never wanted to go near
the plant again, and would never have started to work there if they
had known there was a possibility of contracting such a disease.
In one of the establishments, which employed 145 women and 148
men in the entire plant, of whom 22 women and 12 men worked in



the phosphorus processes, the average wage in the phosphorus de­
partment was $27.50 for the women (who were paid piece rates)
and $23.50 for the men (who were paid by the hour); in the other de­
partments the women averaged $15.50, $17, and $19 per week, and
the men $20.50, $21, and $22 per week.
In another plant the average wage for the woman pieceworkers in
the phosphorus department was $21 per week and in the other de­
partments $18.75. The men were paid by the hour, at rates of from
25 cents to 50 cents.
In the third factory the highest wage earned by pieceworkers in
phosphorus processes was $12.25 per week, the next highest $9.80, and
several earned between $8 and $9. The women, who were paid by the
hour, received 12 cents an hour for making phosphorus fireworks,
while the packers, who also had some supervisory duties, were paid
25 and 27 cents per hour; the men in the plant were paid 40 and 45
cents an hour.
The hours of work were 55 per week in two plants and 50
per week in the third. The work is somewhat seasonal in two plants;
during July and August no phosphorus fireworks are made; a small
force is put on from September to January, while the full force is
almost always engaged from January to June.
One method of reducing the hazard to workers in phosphorus is
to transfer them at intervals to processes where there is no contact
with the poison. In one factory this method was used with the
men but not with the women employed; in the other two factories no
attempt was made to transfer the workers, the manager of one of
these stating that the reason this was not done was that the plant
manufactured phosphorus fireworks for part of the year only. In
all three plants, whenever workers had a tooth extracted they were
either transferred to a nonphosphorus department until the wound
healed or were kept out of the plant altogether until the danger
was past.

The workers in the three fireworks plants were interviewed
while at work, and information was obtained regarding the length
of time they had been employed in the plant and on the phosphorus
process, their age, and nativity. These data are shown in the table
on page 14.
Of the 71 workers engaged in manufacturing phosphorus fire­
works at the time of the study, 15 were men and 56 were women.
There were 15 colored and 56 white workers in the departments
using phosphorus. All except two had been born in the United
Only 10 workers had been employed in the phosphorus depart­
ments three years or oyer, while 20 had been working one month or
less, 14 had been working with phosphorus for one month but less
than six months, 10 for six months but less than one year, and 17
for one year but less than three years. Only 1 worker in the manu­
facture of phosphorus fireworks was over 50 years old; 18 were
between 25 and 50 years; 45 were between 18 and 25; and 7 employ­
ees were under 18 years.



[F.=female; M.=male; W.=white; N.=Negro]
Length of employment in—
Plant and employee
Plant No. 1:
Employee No. 1_____ _______
Employee No. 2____ ________
Employee No. 3_____ _______
Employee No. 4_____________
Employee No. 5_____________
Employee No. 6____________
Employee No. 7_____________
Employee No. 8_____________
Employee No. 9_____________
Employee No. 10.....................
Employee No. 11____________
Employee No. 12......................
Employee No. 13____________
Employee No. 14____________
Employee No. 15......................
Employee No. 16________ ___
Employee No. 17____________
Employee No. 18........ - ...........
Employee No. 19_______ ____
"Plant No. 2:
Employee No. 1_____________
Employee No. 2_____________

Age Sex Color


Phosphorus process

15 months
18 m o n t h s _
15 months
3 months __
15 months
2 years ___
4/4 years __
years ___
1 year _____
4 years _____
7 months
6 months_____
1 day
7 months ___
3H years_____
2 months ___
2 years _____
2y2 w eeks__
6 months____

15 months.
18 months.
15 months.
3 months.
15 months.
2 years.
4H years.
1H years.
1 year.
3 years, 10 months.
7 months.
3 months.
1 day.
7 months.
3 years, 5 months.
% month.
2 days.
1% weeks.




Wrapper ___
....... do_______
....... do_______
....... do_______
....... do.............
....... do.............
....... do.............
....... do_______
....... do_______
....... do.............
....... do.............
....... do_______
___ do __ ___
....... do..... ........
....... do..... ........
....... do.............




Wrapper_____ 3 years_____
....... do_______ ____ do_____ _

Employee No. 3__- __________ 33 F.
Employee No. 4____________ - 43 F.
Employee No. 5_____________ 26 F.
Employee No. 6_____________ 18 F.
Employee No. 7_____________ 19 F.
Employee No. 8_____________ 25 F.
Employee No. 9_____________ 19 F.
Employee No. 10____________ 19 F.
Employee No. 11____________ 19 F.
Employee No. 12____________ 19 F.
35 13F.
Employee No.
Employee No. 1 4 ___________ 21 F.
Employee No. 15____________ 18 F.
Employee No. 16____________ 18 F.
Employee No. 17____________ 18 F.
Employee No. 18____________ 18 F.
Employee No. 19____________ 40 F.
Employee No. 20____________ 18 F.
Employee No. 21____________ 24 F.
Employee No. 22____________ 23 F.
Employee No. 23____________ 19 F.
Employee No. 24____________ 22 F.
Employee No. 25____________ 42 F.
Employee No. 26____________ 19 F.
Employee No. 20
27 F.
Employee No. 28............... ...... 34 F.
Employee No. 29______ _____ 73 M.


....... do_______ 4 m onths___
____do_______ 5 weeks - - . .
____do_______ 8 weeks - .
....... do_______ 2 weeks__ ___
....... do............. 4 years____ . . .
....... do_______ ____do_______
___ do............. 2 months___
....... do—......... ....... do—..........
....... do............. 6 weeks______
....... do_______ 2M years_____
____do_______ 3 months__. . .
____do_______ ___ do____ __
....... do............. 3 weeks___ _
____do_______ ____ do___ . . . .
week___ . . .
....... do__.......... 1 year
....... do............. 1 week_____ _
____do_______ ____do_____ _
_ __do______ ____ do____ __
___ d o ._ .......... 2 years ___ _
....... do............. 5 months_____
___ do_______ 2 years
....... d o „ ......... 2 months.. .
____ do_______ 1 day _ _ __
....... do—.......... 1 week_____ _
....... d o - _ ........ 1 month_____
Assistant mix­ V/<l years.........
er and por­
Porter............. 7 months_____
Molder______ 3 years_____
....... d o - .......... 6 months_____
....... do............. ....... do.............
....... do............. 6 weeks______
....... do............. 6 months_____
____do............. 7 months_____
M ixer............ 4 years_______

Employee No. 30.......- ............. 18 M.
Employee No. 31____________ 30 M.
24 32M.
........... No.
Employee No. 33____________ 36 M.
Employee No. 34...................... 46 M.
Employee No. 35____________ 19 M.
Employee No. 36____________ 19 M.
Employee No. 37_______ . ___ 22 M.
Plant No. 3:
Employee No. 1_____________ 37 F.
Employee No. 2_____________
Employee No. 3_____________
Employee No. 4_____________
Employee No. 5_____________
Employee No. 6 ____________
Employee No. 7_____________
Employee No. 8_____________
Employee No. 9_____________
Employee No. 10____________
Employee No. 11____________
Employee No. 12____________
Employee No. 13......................
Employee No. 14_______ ____
Employee Not 15.._. . . ______

i Over 18 years of age.




Molder and
....... do.............
....... d o - .........
....... do.............
....... d o . . . ........

2H years.
4 months.
5 weeks.
8 weeks.
2 weeks.
3 years.
3 years, 11 months
2 months.
2 weeks.
1H years.
3 months.
3 weeks.
M week.
10 months.
1 week.
2 weeks.
5 months.
1 year.
2 months.
1 day.
1 week.
1 month.
6 months.
2 months.
2 years.
6 months.
6 weeks.
6 months.
1 week.
2 years.

3 years_______ 3 years.

5 years............
3 weeks______
4 years_______
9 months......... 2 years_____ 2 years............

4 years.
3 weeks.
4 years.
3 weeks.
6 months.

.......d o .._ ....... ___ do............. V/2 years. 1 year.............. 1 year.

....... do.............
....... d o - - ........
....... do.............
....... do.............
W. Mixer_______

1H years....... .
1 year..............
2 months_____
3 years...........
1 year..............
10 years_____

1 year.
1 month.
3 years.
11 months.
About 10 years.




In preparing white (yellow) phosphorus the process consists, as a
general rule, of mixing crushed phosphate rock, coke, and sand in
electric furnaces which are heated to a high temperature— 1,700 or
1,900° C. The process is a continuous one; the phosphorus passes off
at the top into a water condenser, where it becomes solid in the form
of small crystals; the rest of the material in the furnace is usually
run out at the bottom in the form of slag.
The phosphorus is transferred under water to a steam-jacketed
kettle, where it is melted. It is then siphoned into another steamjacketed kettle, treated with acid, filtered through a heavy canvas,
and siphoned into another tank, from which it is dipped and poured
into molds consisting of a series of brass tubes. Since the phosphorus
is heavier than water, it sinks to the bottom of the tube and the
water stays on top. During the filtering process, the molds are
placed in hot water until filled, the mold being then lifted out and
placed in cold water where the phosphorus is solidified in the form
of a yellow stick. These sticks are pushed out of the mold under wa­
ter and are then taken out and packed in tin cans by hand, and the can
is filled up with water and the top soldered on. The sticks as they
come out of the water are covered with a film of water, and this has to
dry off before the atmosphere will affect the phosphorus. I f the
work is done rapidly a man has plenty of time to get the phosphorus
out of the tank and into the can before any fumes whatever are given
off, but it would not do for the man to hold the stick in his hand very
In preparing the red, or so-called amorphous, phosphorus, gener­
ally the yellow phosphorus in liquid form is dipped out into a bucket
together with water, so that the liquid is under water all the time,
and taken to an electric heater where the water is driven off and the
phosphorus is heated to 288° C., in the absence of air. Under these
conditions, it is gradually converted into phosphorus. The red
phosphorus is then chipped out of these heating pots, put into a
revolving crusher, and ground up into a mudlike substance. This
substance is then treated for acid and pumped into a filter press and
the water is squeezed out of it. Any remaining moisture is taken
out in a vacuum drier. The material as it comes from the drier is
crushed by a wooden roller and packed in cans in the form of a dry
There are only two phosphorus-extraction plants in the United
States, and one of these has been closed since November, 1920. No
red phosphorus is being transformed from yellow phosphorus in the
United States at the present time; the entire amount used is im­
ported. About 10,000 pounds of yellow phosphorus a week were pre­
pared at one plant in 1918, 1919, and 1920. Some 32 men were em­
ployed in this plant normally and 45 at the time of greatest produc­
tion. Working conditions were fairly good in this plant. The lava­
tories had three toilets and two washstands, and in addition two
bathtubs were provided. The men were warned not to eat without
thoroughly washing their hands, and were advised to keep their
teeth in good condition, since the poison seemed to enter the system
primarily through decayed teeth, or through the jaw where a tooth



had been extracted. A dentist had examined the employees at in­
tervals, but there was no regular dental inspection.
In the other plant the following notice was posted in Spanish,
Italian, Polish, and English, at three separate places—at the en­
trance gate, in the plant, and in the wash room:
It is important that all the men working in the phosphorus plant and in
plants where phosphorus is used keep tlieir teeth clean and in good condition.
The company’s dentist will examine all such men every three months, and re
pair any defective teeth. In the case of any man having trouble with his teeth
during the period between examinations, the same should be reported to the
foreman, who will have the dentist attend to them at once.
The teeth should be cleaned at least once every day by scrubbing thoroughly
with a brush.

Since the sign was posted dental inspections have been made more
Twenty-five per cent of the employees of this second plant have
worked there more than six years and 85 per cent have been em­
ployed over one year. Almost since the plant was started (over
25 years ago) regular dental inspections have been made and repairs
to teeth have been taken care of at the firm’s expense. This constant
care probably has been an important factor in reducing the hazard
from phosphorus poisoning.

The table below contains the data gathered as regards cases of
phosphorus necrosis which have occurred among the employees of
three fireworks plants and of the factory formerly preparing both
yellow and red phosphorus but which had not been operating for
the past five years.
In the fireworks industry 13 of the 14 cases were women. This is
probably due to the fact that women were employed in larger num­
bers in the process which demanded constant exposure to the fume
rising from the pans of phosphorus paste. The fourteenth case, a
man, was a mixer. Very few men (usually one man with sometimes
an assistant) are employed in this process.
In the match industry, phosphorus poisoning seems to be slow in
onset.17 Among the fireworks employees who had developed phos­
phorus necrosis, however, one worker had been employed in the plant
during a period of over two years, had worked in the phosphorus
process at intervals, aggregating about three months altogether.
Another had been exposed to phosphorus about six months. Several
others had been working in phosphorus for two years or less, two
workers for three years, two for five years, and only one for as long
as six years.18 Many of the colored workers were very indefinite about
the time they had been working in the plant and on phosphorus, and
17 H am ilton, A lic e : Industrial P oisons in the United States.
New York, the M ac­
millan Co., 1925, p. 311.
18 In England the workers cited by Oliver had been employed 7 to 15 y e a r s ; in Germany
a group o f 82 matchmakers with “ phossy jaw ” had averaged 6.6 years’ em ploym ent;
another group o f 87 had averaged 5 years. In Austria 41 cases were reported in men
working from 11 to 20 years, and 13 for over 20 years. One o f Lorinser’s cases', how­
ever, had worked only 7 Months.



as no record had been kept at the factory only the approximate time
could be determined.
Two of the 14 cases in the fireworks industry were fatal, about 14
per cent of the total number. Doctor Hamilton gives the mortality
of phosphorus necrosis as usually about 15 or 20 per cent.17
The duration of the disease, as given in the table, is perhaps not
always accurate, since in the cases where dates of hospital records
were not available it was necessary to rely on the memory of the
worker or the worker’s family. In case No. 9 the disease was par­
ticularly rapid, lasting only about six months before the patient suc­
cumbed; in the other fatal case the disease ran a little over a year.
In the fireworks industry, of the 14 cases, in 9 the necrosis de­
veloped in the lower jaw, in 4 in the upper, and in 1 case in both
The four cases occurring in the preparation of phosphorus were
among men who had been employed in phosphorus processes from
3 to 12 years before necrosis developed. Three of these workers lost
the entire upper jaw, and in one case the lower jaw is also affected
and the patient seems to be in a serious condition; the fourth worker
who developed “ phossy jaw 55 lost part of the lower jaw on both
sides and is still having minute particles of bone thrown off. No
records from doctors or dentists recording the exa'si duration of the
disease among the phosphorus extractors are available, and only ap­
proximate figures can be given.
17 Hamilton, A lice: Industrial Poisons in the United States.
millan Co., 1925, p. 311.

New York, the Mac­


[F.=Female; M .=Male; W .=W hite; N.=Negro]


Age Sex Race

Part affected
In phosphorus

Case No. 1...



___ d o ..

Case No. 16-

Grinder and sciver Paper mill.
of red phosphorus
Weigher of yellow ___ do........
Mixer, 8 years; re­ None..........

Case No. 5__.
Case No. 6__.
Case No. 7...
Case No. 8_.
Case No. 9 ..
Case No. 10Case No. 11--

Case No. 17.
Case No. 18.


___ d o ...

Present condition

3 years___ 3 years___
10 years... About 10
3 years___ About 3
6% years.. 4H years..
12 years... About 12

___ do . . . .
Upper jaw.

Severe -

Sept., 1922, to June, 1924.__ Part of jaw gone. In good
In fair health.


About Oct., 1923, to Mar.,


Mar., 1923, to June, 1924___ Some deformity. In


Very se­ Mar., 1923, to present___
Slight... Mar. 18, 1924, to 1925.......

In hospital; condition serious.


1 small necrotic area still

Jan. 8,1925, to present___

S lig h t - June 17,1924-May, 1925..
Fatal—, 1919, to Oct., 1920....... .


No deformity.


...d o...... Sept. 7,1921, to Mar. 13,1922
Slight... 2 years.................................. In good health.
M oder­
...d o......
...d o......

—, 1920, to summer of 1923- Slight deformity.


Mar., 1923, to present......... Under treatment.
Apr., 1925, to present.......... Secondary infection, not ar­
S lig h t - May, 1925, to present.......... Under treatment.
M oder­ About 4 or 5 months in 1912. Upper jaw gone. In good
...d o___ Apr., 1916, to 1917................ Upper jaw gone. In fair

Both sides of ...d o____ Several years........................ In fair health. Particles of
lower jaw.
bone still being thrown off.
and Very se­ July, 1920, to present........... Continually getting worse.
lower jaw.


Case No. 14.
Case No. 15.

Case No. 4__.

Length of illness


CaseNo. 12_
Case No. 13.

Case No. 3...



Molder and wrap­ None........... 5 years___ 5 years___ Right and left
upper jaw.
___ do.................... . F irew orks, 18 months. 18 months. Lower jaw.......
n o n p h o s­
....... do...................... None........... . Left
right lower
17 months. 17 months. Right and left
lower jaw.
Mixer.............. ...... Unknown... About 2 Less than Lower jaw.......
3 months
Molder and wrap­ F irew ork s, 3 years— 22 months Right
non ph os­
___ do.................... ___ do.......... 2 years___ 1H years.. Left lower jaw.
___ do....................
About 6 About 6 Upper jaw.......
.d o............
2 years___ 2 years___ Lower jaw.......
.d o............
School-teacher About 9 About 6 ___ do...............
....... do.................... . G e n e r a l 17 months. 14 months. Right upper
.d o ...
None............. 3 years___ 3 years___ Lower jaw.......
-d o --.
....... do........... 5 years___ 5 years___ ___ do............. .

Case No. 2...


Duration of employ­
ment in—





The medical histories, abstracts of which are given below, of the
14 cases which occurred among the employees in the three fireworks
plants studied were obtained from hospitals, doctors, and. dentists.
In some of the earlier cases records had been lost or the attending
physicians had died, and the histories are therefore not so complete
as later ones. There were instances where a dentist thought he
remembered a case of “ phossy jaw ” many years back, but no cor­
roborating records could be secured, and such cases were therefore
ignored as being too vague. In one factory, many of whose work­
ers were from out of town and simply boarded in the village, fellow
employees spoke of girls who had been taken ill and had gone home,
but as the location of their homes could not be ascertained the nature
of the illness could not be learned. In another plant a worker died
of pneumonia at the local hospital and one of the hospital physicians
thought there was a connection between the occupation and the dis­
ease, but neither the hospital nor the death record sustained this
theory, so it was not included among the cases described below.
The four cases in one plant extracting phosphorus developed five
years ago, before the plant closed down, and the attending physicians
and dentists had in most instances moved away or died or had de­
stroyed their records. Some of the workers affected, however, had
preserved the parts of the jaw which had loosened and come off, in
some cases the entire shell; that is, the roof of the mouth and the
upper jaw.
In the other plant preparing phosphorus, one man who had a
diseased antrum (but not “ phossy jaw,” according to the attending
physician) from which pus oozed had died the year before the
bureau’s investigation was made. Another employee had had a
slight case of necrosis many years ago, involving the curettement
of the sockets of two teeth. The physician who treated most of the
illnesses at the plant said there might be some doubt whether this
necrosis was caused by phosphorus. These were the onty two cases
of possible necrosis that had occurred in the plant during the 20
or 25 years it had been running, according to the statements of the
manager, of the plant dentist who had been in attendance at regular
intervals almost since the time it had been started, and of the physi­
cian who had been called in for a number of years for any case of
illness at the plant. The manager attributed the freedom from
chronic phosphorus poisoning to the regular dental inspections and
the compulsory dental care given to any whose teeth were defective.
Case No, 1

Age, 22; white; female.
Length o f time exposed to phosphorus, five years.
The hospital records showed that the patient entered the hospital on Jan­
uary 30, 1923, having an extensive necrosis of the right side of the upper
jaw7 and a smaller area o f involvement in the left side. She had been oper­
ated upon four months previously, with no results. She was 20 years old, had
been working in a fireworks factory, had had no injuries and no previous
illnesses except measles, weighed 100 pounds at time of entering the hospital
and 115 pounds six months previously.
A smear revealed the presence of large numbers o f fusiform bacilli o f Vin­
cent. It appears to be characteristic of extensive osseous infections o f the


p h o s p h o r u s n ecrosis in m a n u f a c t u r e of f ir e w o r k s

jaw that the Vincent’s organisms, both the fusiform bacilli and the spirilla,
are present in abundance. “ They are undoubtedly secondary to the original
infection, but become markedly active as the disease progresses.” To combat
this, neosalvarsan was administered at first locally, then intravenously.
On February 6 large sequestra on the left side were removed, together with
several teeth, and from time to time until December 1 smaller sequestra were
exfoliated. Irrigation several times a day with very weak iodine solution
and sodium bicarbonate was advised.
During all this time there was a marked and persistent anemia, the patient’s
hemoglobin falling as low as 40 per cent and her blood sugar as low as 50
milligrams per 100 cubic centimeters.
“ The differential diagnosis of phosphorus necrosis, concerning which medical
literature is practically a blank, seems to be that the line of demarcation, so
universally apparent in all forms of necrosis except osteomyelitis, is entirely
missing, and there is a marked eburnation, instead o f the soft and cheesy
condition of the osseous structure involved.”
On December 1, 1923 an operation—a subperiosteal resection o f entire up­
per jaw—was performed. The anterior tip o f the soft tissue overlying the
hard palate was sutured to the anterior central mucous surface.
Six months later she was supplied with a full set o f artificial teeth, and
has been in apparently perfect health ever since.
Case No. 2

Age, 20; white; female.
Length of time exposed to phosphorus, 18 months.
The patient was admitted to the hospital February 5, 1924. The sequestrum
was removed and there was a slight curettement.
The report of the dentist who had attended her showed that pressure on
the lower jaw caused the appearance o f pus through fistula, and that there
was some granulating tissue in the region of a socket from which a tooth had
been extracted.
Case No. 3

Age, 19; white; female.
Length of time exposed to phosphorus, 18 months.
The patient went to the hospital April 23, 1923, where a provisional diagnosis
showed facial cellulitis and osteomyelitis of the jaw. She was 17 years old at
that time. She had had an abscessed tooth removed prior to admission. The
dentist had incised the swelling of the lower right jaw, but as this gave no
relief the patient was advised to enter the hospital. Two incisions were made
along the border of the lower jaw, with the discharge of considerable pus, and
drains were inserted. Hot poultices were applied and Dobell’s gargle was used.
The patient improved and was discharged from the hospital April 29, 1923.
The girl was readmitted to the hospital May 8, 1923. Operative findings were
necrotic osteomyelitis of lower jaw (corroborated by X ray May 13). The
bone was found to be necrotic and was curetted; a molar tooth was re­
moved; bone was curetted also from the inside of the mouth. She was dis­
charged May 23.
She was admitted a third time on August 4, complaining o f swelling on right
side of face, of a discharge from the mass externally, of discharge from the
mouth, and of pain over the upper portion o f the mass. (During her illness
patient had lost 30 pounds.) Culture of smear of pus showed Vincent’s organ­
ism on August 4, and on August 9 revealed fusiform bacilli and spirillum forms!
of Vincent’s angina.
In operating, the bicuspids o f lower set of teeth were removed; an external
incision was made along the lower jaw, the periosteum retracted, and the
sequestrum removed. The floor of the mouth was reconstructed, obliterating
the fistulous tract to the outside, and tissues were sewed in layers. A rubber
tube was inserted in the lower angle. On September 4 a blood transfusion of
450 cubic centimeters o f blood was given because of the patient’s condition—
white blood count very low and 45 per cent haemoglobin with 1,710,000 red blood
count. Patient received Alpine light treatment. She was discharged on De­
cember 19, 1923, in an improved condition.
She entered a hospital again March 4, 1924, with her face swollen and ten­
der, complaining of slight pain on moving the jaw. Her blood count showed
a slight increase in white corpuscles during a period o f some seven days. Two
large sequestra were removed from right lower jaw and one from left upper
jaw, and the patient was discharged March 11,1924.



Case No. 4

Age, 19; white; female.
Length of time exposed to phosphorus, 17 months.
According to the hospital record (April 8, 1923), the patient, though rather
anemic and frail in appearance, stated that she had, always been well and
healthy, and had never had very much sickness o f any kind. About two
years before she had begun to work in a fireworks factory and almost ever
since had been troubled with a cough. ThQ complaint for which she was
admitted to the hospital had begun several days before with a severe chill
and a “ stitch ” in her right side. Her cough was dry and harsh, without
any expectoration. Patient was treated for pneumonia, and was discharged
April 18, 1923.
The report of the physician (November 20, 1924) stated that the girl
had entered the fireworks factory in the latter part of November, 1921.
At that time she was a well-developed country girl of 16 years, in excellent
health, and with perfectly normal teeth. The first symptom observed by her,
after having been exposed to fumes of phosphorus, was an irritating cough
unaccompanied by any expectoration. (A large proportion of her fellow
employees had a similar cough.) About January, 1923, she began to feel
unusually tired, her appetite became impaired, and in March, 1923, two of
her teeth showed signs of caries and had to be extracted. After extraction
the wound did not heal and necrosis of the jaw began. This dental caries
and subsequent necrosis of the lower jaw was bilateral and progressive.
In April, 1923, she developed considerable fever and was confined to bed
for about two weeks. Later, the fever subsided and she again returned
to work in the factory and continued to handlei the phosphorus paste until
June, 1923. In September, 1923, she came to the dispensary of the hospital
and was examined by Doctor H. At that time several o f the lower teeth
had become loosened and extensive necrosis of right and left lower jaws
had occurred. Doctor H. diagnosed the condition as “ phossy jaw,” which
diagnosis was concurred in by Doctor L. Shortly after her admission to the
hospital Doctor L. operated, removing all her loose teeth and thoroughly curretting the necrosed bone. Various hygienic and medicinal measures were insti­
tuted and three subsequent operations were performed, but the necrosis con­
tinued to progress, unaffected by any treatment. More than 18 months have
elapsed since the necrosis first began about the molar teeth and 14 months since
the first operation, but the condition shows no sign o f being arrested and there
is every reason to believe that the entire lower jaw will be destroyed. The
case first came under the personal observation of the reporting physician
in November, 1923, when it was considered advisable to investigate the case
from the standpoint of the internist. At that time the patient had lost con­
siderably in weight, could swallow food only with great difficulty, exhibited
a profound anemia and had a septic type of fever, reaching 103° to 104° daily.
The examination o f the lungs revealed no abnormal signs, and the results
o f the X-ray examination were negative. The sputum contained no tubercle
bacilli, nor did the discharge from the wounds along the jaw, nor the scrap­
ings from the bone. The heart was normal in size and position, with no
audible murmur. The muscle tone o f the heart was decidedly impaired,
probably due to the prolonged period o f sepsis. The pulse was rapid and
feeble, but the rhythm was normal. The blood examination showed evidences
o f decided anemia and a leucocytosis. The Wassernmnn test was repeatedly
negative. The urinanalysis showed no abnormality o f importance.
The X-ray films o f the jaw showed extensive bilateral necrosis, involving
the rami of both right and left lower jaws, extending backward to the angles
o f the jaw. The entire anterior portion o f the jaw seems to be separated
from the rami. X-ray films were made o f various long bones o f the body, but
no pathological changes could be demonstrated.
“ Every effort was made to secure good surgical drainage; the diet was
forced as much as possible, and the patient was kept in the fresh air on suit­
able days; as the swelling in the neck subsided the patient was able to eat
better; and, after several months’ duration in the spring of 1924, the septic
fever began to drop and gradually reached normal. As the septic condition
improved the pulse became less rapid, and the tone of the heart muscle im­
proved. Otherwise there has been little change in the patient’s condition.
The necrosis of the bone still continues; there is a profuse, foul-smelling dis­



charge from the sinuses on either side of the cheek and neck, and the patient
continues in a very feeble state of health. The ultimate outcome of this case
is difficult to prognosticate. It seems certain that the entire lower jaw will
be destroyed by necrosis. This may require a period o f two or four years.
Should the patient be able to stand this prolonged period o f septic poisoning,
it is conceivable that she may partially regain her health. This has occurred
in some instances. It is my opinion, however, that a fatal termination is
more than probable.”
The following reports are taken from testimony given under oath at the
trial of the girl’s suit for damages for injuries sustained during her em­
ployment :19
Doctor H. stated that when he first saw the girl, October 10, 1923, she had
an immense swelling about her jaw and extending down her neck. She had
difficulty in opening her mouth and said she felt pain around her lower jaw.
Opening her jaw he found marked swelling about the mucous membrane on
the side, which was very tender to the touch. Two or three teeth were out on
each side and the gums had receded, exposing the jawbone, “ which looked dark—
a blackish condition.” Her breath was particularly fetid and foul and had an
odor of garlic. When the gum on the inside where the mucous membrane was
associated to the jawbone was pressed some blood and pus came out.
Doctor H. diagnosed the case as chronic phosphorus poisoning, after having
the patient under observation from October 10 to October 21 or 22, 1923, and
making tests and taking X rays.
She was operated on October 23, 1923, the left side of the jaw being opened.
“ An attempt was made to go through the gum on the inside, through a local
anesthesia. Owing to the severity o f the hemorrhage going into the throat
we were not able to go further. She was given an anesthesia, and a lot o f
rotten bone was removed from the left side. We could not do an extensive
operation, on account o f the condition o f the girl. She was put back to bed,
and got in better shape and the temperature began to come down and she felt
better. We thought we would get her out in the air so she might recuperate
a little better and return to the clinic every day, which she did faithfully.
She went out on November 11. During the period from November 11 to De­
c e m b e r 5 I observed her e v e r y day, and she began to get worse again. There
was evidence of septic poison continuing.”
She was brought into the hospital again on December 5, and on December 12
another operation was performed, this time on the right side. The left side,
which had already been operated on, was oozing pus and it was treated and
drained. “ The second operation was on the right side and was about the
same as was done on the other side, with the exception o f removing a quantity
o f rotten bone with a lot of pus formation. She has been in the hospital ever
since that day. There were days on which she was some better, and other
days on which she was worse. We were required to give her anodyne at
night for quite a little period, in order that she might have sleep. She hasn’t
been able to take any food by the mouth except liquid form. In January,
instead of our operation being a success and abating this rotten bone, the
condition progressed, which was shown by our X ray. On January 14 she
was operated on again on the right side, in which the severity of this
rotten bone was discovered.” In that operation a great deal o f bone had to be
removed nearly up to the top of the jawbone. It was a severe operation and
hemorrhage was almost continuous. “ She went bad on the table and we almost
lost her, we had to stop the operation. * * * She got along better after
that and improved to a certain extent, but the old condition was there; pus
was oozing from the wound continually and it was necessary to have it
redressed every day, sometimes twice a day. * * * The girl was in a terrible
condition. She is still under our care.”
An examination of her urine showed that she had toxic nephritis; her heart
was rapid, 110 to 120 almost continually, and her temperature averaged around
100° or 101°.
Doctor L. stated that at the time he first saw this case, at a surgical staff*
meeting, she had swelling of the jaw on both sides, with her mouth partially
From the findings of the various reports, including the X ray, pathological,
and Wassermann test, from the clinical history, and from the statement of
•19 See p. 34.

FIG. 1.— C ASE NO . 4: B E F O R E C O N T R A C T I N G P H O S P H O R U S


FI G . 2 — CASE NO. 4: F R O N T A N D S I D E V I E W S , T A K E N D E C E M B E R 26, 1923


FIG. 3.— C ASE NO. 4: F R O N T A N D S I D E V I E W S , T A K E N M A R C H 24, 1924



the patient that she had been working in a factory where there were fumes
that smelled like matches, the physicians suspected phosphorus poisoning.
Doctor L. referred to the operations mentioned above, and continued:
“ She has gradually improved so she is able to be about. She still runs an
abnormally high temperature, but not like it was before the operation. ”
The effect of the disease on the general health has been very destructive;
“ her kidneys are showing evidence of degeneration, and she shows marked
myocarditis, which means weakness of the walls of her heart, and she is
anemic, of course.”
By eliminating all such diseases as syphilis and actinomycosis, and from
the appearance o f the gum and the unusual foul odor, and especially be­
cause of the history o f exposure to the fumes o f phosphorus, Doctor L. came
to the conclusion that the disease was “ phossy jaw ” rather than other forms
of necrosis of the jaw. It differs from ordinary osteomyelitis o f the jaw in
the “ peculiar, garlicy odor which, once smelled, will never be forgotten.”
The X-ray diagnostician’s report showed that there is a large and diffused
necrosis of the bone spreading out over a great area. There is a sequestrum
formation. “ The pieces vary in size; they have been undermined by the
death of the bone and are lying loose in the tissue. At various times indi­
vidual teeth have shown to be loosened in their sockets. At the last exami­
nation (April 10, 1924) one o f the wisdom teeth, on the lower side, which had
been uninterrupted, was found to be lying loose on the surface of the process
in which the teeth grow, at right angles to its normal position. Toward the
front angle of the jaw there exists * * * what is known as a pathological
fracture, which means the bone has broken itself from its wedging due to lack of
bone tissue in that neighborhood. On the under surface of the jaw, on both
sides, the normal covering of the bone is shown to be separated from the bone
and markedly thickened. The bone destruction, at our last examination, has ex­
tended back to the angle just back of the wisdom tooth. These X-ray find­
ings, in my opinion, constitute a diagnosis o f chronic diffused osteomyelitis,
with necrosis and sequestrum formation. ”
Case No. 5

Age 24; white; male.
Length of time exposed to phosphorus, about two years.
The hospital record showed that this man was first admitted to the hos­
pital on April 3, 1924, suffering from necrosis o f the lower jaw, due to chronic
phosphorus poisoning. His occupation was given as “ maker of fireworks.”
An X-ray examination made on April 4, 1924, showed a slight enlargement
of heart to the le ft ; the diaphragm on both sides was normal, and there was
no evidence of a tubercular lesion. A film made o f the lower jaw showed evi­
dence of necrosis about the anterior molar on the right and the second
molar on the left side, and also at the apex of the root o f the first molar
tooth. On April 10, 1924, the lower left second molar and two roots of first
molar were extracted, and the socket was curetted and a smear sent to the
laboratory. The patient refused to have the first molar on the right side
extracted. The smear consisted of some tiny bloody fragments which on
microscopic examination showed granulation tissue.
An operation was performed April 11, 1924, when small bits o f sloughing
tissue were removed and the sinus of left lower jaw was drained and
The patient was discharged April 12, 1924, in an improved condition.
He was admitted to the hospital a second time on April 25, 1924, with the
same diagnosis as before. X rays made of the right jaw showed evidence
of bone change involving the horizontal ramus about the area of the canine
tooth. After treatment he left the hospital on May 3,1924.
The case was admitted a third time on May 10, 1924, again with the same
diagnosis. An X ray, of May 10, of both legs and both arms showed slight
cloudiness about the knee joints, but no evidence of periosteitis or of osteitis
or other bone change. X rays made of the right and left upper posterior teeth
disclosed that the right upper first molar showed an area of necrosis at the
apex of the anterior root; posterior root showed considerable absorption be­
tween it and the second molar; and the entire crown absent. On the left
side there was necrosis about the alveolar process where the second bicuspid
root had previously been; this extended to the apex of the root of the first
bicuspid. Both molars were normal; the third molar had not erupted.



The patient remained in the hospital under treatment until October 13,
1924, during which time his condition remained about the same.
According to the testimony of Doctor G., given under oath at trial of another
worker who had developed phosphorus necrosis and had entered suit for
damages, he first treated this man professionally on March 18, 1924, when he
called at the doctor’s office, at the request of the superintendent of the factory,
for an examination. The man was suffering at the time with infection on the
side of his jaw which was draining to a slight extent. He had had a tooth
extracted and was still having pain and swelling on the right side of jaw. He
said this swelling had been more or less persistent over a period of a few
years. The wound was redressed March 18, 20, 23, 26, 28, and 31. It improved
after being reopened and allowed better drainage.
Case No. 6

Age, 28; w hite; female.
Length of time exposed to phosphorus, 22 months.
This worker was admitted to the hospital January 8, 1925, with a diagnosis
of osteomyelitis o f the upper jaw. She complained of pain in her right jaw and
cheek. It was found that there was necrosis of the upper jaw involving the
upper jawbone and antrum. Considerable dead bone was removed, and the
patient was discharged January 16.
She was admitted a second time on February 16, 1925, with a diagnosis o f
moderate osteomyelitis of the right frontal bone. In operating, four upper
incisor teeth and some necrotic bone were removed. The patient was dis­
charged February 17, 1925.
The physician who performed the second operation reported that he removed
teeth and jawbone in three different places from three different foci, all the
front teeth, and a piece of bone 1 inch long and one-half inch thick.
Since this operation another bone fragment has been removed. At present
time (April, 1925) patient is doing very well, though still under treatment and
not yet cured. One small necrotic area still exists.
Case No. 7

Age, 18; w hite; female.
Length of time exposed to phosphorus, one and one-half years.
The hospital record showed that this young woman was admitted to the
hospital June 17, 1924, complaining of pain in the left side of her jaw. The
diagnosis— osteomyelitis of the left lower jaw wTith cellulitis of the neck— was
confirmed by an X-ray picture taken before operation. The examination
showed a large boggy swelling under the left lower jaw and she was unable to
open the jaw. The lower jaw showed evidence of the membrane being stripped
off and of a definite osteomyelitis of the jaw extending for about 2 inches.
An incision was made along the lower border of the jaw and a tube inserted
up to the floor o f the mouth; the diseased portion of the jaw was curetted and
an iodoform drain inserted.
The attending physician reported that after this operation the patient got
along very well for three or four days, after which her neck became swollen
and the anterior portion of left side o f neck was involved. The physician
operated on June 26, 1924, opening the anterior portion of the jaw for drainage
and removing teeth but no bone. On September 15, 1924, he extracted more
teeth, curetted the lower jaw, and removed a small fragment o f necrotic bone.
The woman returned to the hospital February 16, 1925. The findings were
necrosis of the small incisor and the first bicuspid. One tooth was removed
and the socket curetted. After a lapse of three months (May, 1925) the
physician considered the girl cured without any deformity.

The following seven cases of phosphorus necrosis, contracted in plant No. 3,
were all treated by one dentist, who, when necessary, referred the patients to
a physician or sent them to a hospital for treatment. These cases extended
over a period of six years, and since many of them were treated without
charge, exact dates and history have not always been recorded in great detail.
It is probably due to the accurate diagnosis and careful treatment of this
dentist, who has been on the lookout for incipient cases, that more cases have
not terminated fatally.



Case No. 8

Age, 21; colored; female.
Length of time exposed to phosphorus, about six years.
The dentist treated her during 1919 for a necrotic first upper molar socket,
the tooth having been extracted five months previously. The teeth adjacent to
socket were loosening from the spreading infection, which was accompanied
by much pain and swelling. The case at first, on the report of a physician,
was taken to be syphilitic in origin, but no positive test was made. Anti­
syphilitic treatment was used, but without result. Gradual curettement with
constant application of various antiseptics brought little relief. An X ray
was taken*of the jaw which showed an abnormal condition of the area sur­
rounding the socket. The infection continued to spread, as was shown by a
rise of temperature to 102%° F. The patient was ordered to the hospital but
died before admission, October 8, 1920, after months o f suffering. For a long
time both before and after the extraction of the tooth she had worked in a
fireworks plant.
The death record gives septicemia (duration, seven days) as the cause of
death and abscess o f third upper molar tooth (duration, three months) as a
contributory cause. The occupation of deceased is given as “ Laboress—made
Case No. 9

Age, 22; colored; female.
Length of time exposed to phosphorus, two years.
The dentist reported that this young woman appeared at his office Septem­
ber 7, 1921, having a hardened mass below a badly decayed lower first molar,
resembling an alveolar abscess. The tooth was loosened and the jaw very
painful. The tooth was extracted and the socket curetted; the jaw was treated
every other day to reduce the inflammation. The swelling and pain continued,
the abscess pointing outside on face. The abscess was lanced, first inside of
the mouth and then outside on the face, and antiseptic solutions were used
continuously. The patient gave a history of work in a fireworks plant for a
long time previous. To eliminate the possibility of syphilis, a Wassermann test
was made by her physician, which was negative. Her condition improved
for a while, but later other fistulous areas formed lower down on the neck,
and she was advised to enter the hospital for treatment. An operation to
remove necrosed bone was performed at the hospital but the infection con­
tinued to spread. This case was very rapid in its course and her suffering was
intense. “ Being the sole support of her two children, she struggled to live
but succumbed to septicemia and exhaustion.” The death record gives ex­
haustion as the cause of death, and “ necrosis of jaw due to extraction of
teeth” (duration o f three and a half months) as a contributory cause.
The only record obtainable at the hospital was the date of entry, November
27, 1921, and the date of death, March 13, 1922. The abscess on the jaw was
opened November 28, 1921, and December 10, 1921.
The operating physician reports as follow s:
“ This is to state that I operated on a colored woman by the name o f ----------- , a former employee of t h e ------ fireworks company. This operation was
for a necrosed lower jawbone, the right side being involved from the angle
to midline. This was done in 1921. I felt certain at the time, in spite of
her attributing it to the extraction of a tooth, that this was a case of phos­
phorus poisoning.
“At the time o f the first operation, I removed large masses o f dead bone
from the outer side of the jaw. There seemed to be a thin, firm shell of new
bone on the inner side. She did well for several weeks and then developed
necrosis about the chin and angle of jaw. I reoperated and removed some more
dead bone, but this was followed by no improvement o f any note.
“ This case possessed a most horrible, sweetish, fetid odor that was almost
intolerable. She died of exhaustion in spite of all the supportive treatment
usually indicated in such conditions.”
Case No. 10

Age, 25; colored; female.
Length of time exposed to phosphorus, six months.
The dentist to whom she went in the latter part o f 1920 reports that she
had a necrosed first lower molar socket; the tooth had been extracted three
or four months previously but the gum refused to heal. She was a school­



teacher, but had been working during the summer months of 1919 and 1920
in a fireworks plant. The dentist ordered her to stop work in the plant im­
mediately and began treatment of her jaw. He had a Wassermann test made,
but the report was negative and administration of mixed treatment was in­
effective. He treated jaw “ expectantly,” waiting for the sequestrum to form,
using various antiseptics continuously, with general supportive treatment.
After more than a year the sequestrum gradually worked away from the
healthy bone and was removed, bringing about complete healing. Being in­
telligent, she followed his advice closely, coming in from her school in the
country at intervals for treatment. While she suffered considerable pain and
discomfort, fistulous areas and extensive swelling were prevented and she
lost only a portion o f the bone below the tooth which was extracted.
The physician to whom she was sent for a blood test reports: “ Patient
came for treatment in 1920 for a checking of the condition of her blood, com­
plaining of pain and swelling in her jaw from which a tooth had been ex­
tracted. She had been working in a fireworks plant. A Wassermann was
taken of her blood, which was negative. A positive diagnosis of phosphorus
poisoning was made, and she was referred to her dentist for treatment.”
Case No. 11

Age, 21; colored; female.
Length of time exposed to phosphorus, 14 months.
The dentist reports that this patient came to him during the summer o f
1921 with a necrosed first upper molar socket; the tooth had been extracted
nearly a year before. “ Jaw was swollen and painful. Three Wassermann tests
were made of her blood, all of which were negative, one or two of the tests
being made before any administration of drugs for syphilis. No response to
mixed treatment. She gave history of working in the fireworks plant * * *
before and after the extraction of tooth, and the necrosis was made much
more extensive by her continuing to work there without my knowledge and
against my advice, while I was opening up her jaw and treating it, thus
allowing more phosphorus to enter. Expectant treatment, with various anti­
septic and supportive measures, was used. The necrosis spread beneath the
second and third molars, extending to the antrum of Highmore, accompanied
by much swelling and pain. Waited about two months for signs o f formation
of sequestrum, but when area became more extensive ordered her to hospital.
At --------- hospital a partial removal of the upper jaw was resorted to and
patient dismissed. Case was watched, as there were still positive evidences
o f further infection. Patient began to lose weight and experienced more pain,
and showed a rise o f temperature (101% °), weakening rapidly from the
infection.” She was advised to enter the hospital again, and went to one in
another city. She was treated there for a long period, more o f the upper
jaw being removed, the loss of tissue being supported by the insertion o f
silver and a drain being left for further recurrence. “ A plate was made to
restore teeth. She has a facial deformity, but, considering the course, dura­
tion, and extent o f the necrosis, she is fortunate. Her general condition when
last seen (1924) was good, and jaw seemed to be healed.”
Report of first physician:
“ Treated during 1920 for a necrosed jaw in the upper molar region. There
was much swelling and pain and she was given codeine tablets for pain and
sent back to her dentist after three Wassermann tests (negative) were made.
She had been employed in fireworks plant. Patient returned after a few
months, during which time she was operated on at hospital for a partial re­
moval of the upper jaw. There were evidences o f necrotic tissue, and in a
short time the necrosis began to spread farther up into the face and patient
began to lose weight rapidly, temperature going up to 101%° F. She went to a
hospital in another city, where an operation was performed to eliminate the
necrosis. An extensive one was performed, as quite a bit of the upper jaw
was necrosed.
“ On her return in 1924, found her .jaw in process of healing with small drain
in place, and, while her face is deformed, she seems to be in good health other­
wise. ”
Report of second physician:
“ March 22, 1922, right maxillary sinusitis. History: At 14 months prior
to March 22, 1922, had an upper tooth on right side extracted and, following
this, there was an uncomfortable sensation in right jaw and formation of



pus. At time patient was seen, sinus was cloudy and a funguslike growth had
developed in cavity, of a very peculiar consistency.
“ Operation: Did the Carwell-Luc. Suspected phosphorus necrosis.
“ When patient was last seen was much improved, but not entirely cured,
but failed to return for further treatment. ”
According to the records of the second hospital to which the girl went, she
was admitted to the hospital on March 26, 1923, complaining of loss of sense
of smell on the right side of her nose. Her general health had always been
good; there had been no definite history of acute infectious diseases and no
luetic infection. The family history showed no tuberculosis and no cancer.
She stated that for the past two months she had been troubled by chronic
aasal discharge of a foul mucopurulent nature, from the right nostril, and
had lost completely the sense of smell. Two years before two abscessed teeth
had been extracted from the right upper jaw, because of an abscessed condi­
tion. The area healed but subsequently broke down again and was later com­
plicated by pain, swelling of right cheek, and nasal symptoms. At the time
of a visit made by her to the laryngology dispensary in October, 1922, a luetic
condition was suspected, but the Wassermann tests were consistently negative.
An X ray of her head was negative. Six injections of diarsenol (0.3) were
Examination of the nose showed that the mucous membranes were a fairly
good color. On the floor of the right nostril there was an area of granulation
tissue described as being “ greyish in color and boggy,” through which a probe
could easily be passed to the bone beneath. The extent of this tissue back­
ward into the nose could not be satisfactorily determined at this examination.
The under surface of the inferior turbinates seemed to be also involved. The
middle turbinate* on the right seemed normal and no discharge was noted.
The left nostril was normal. An X ray of the sinuses showed the remains
of an old infection of the right antrum.
An examination showed the teeth to be in very poor condition, with several
missing, particularly from the right upper jaw. There were a few fillings and
several carious teeth. She also had pyorrhea. The tonsils were slightly en­
larged, particularly on the left; the surface was ragged and crypts somewhat
congested; adherent to both anterior and posterior pillars.
In the sinuses there was some tenderness, on pressure, over the right antrum,
and a slight definite swelling. On transillumination there was clouding of
the right antrum.
The case was diagnosed as chronic osteomyelitis of the right upper jaw.
On March 29, 1923, a radical operation was performed on right antrum,
and the sequestrum was removed. On April 11, 1923, a plastic closure o f the
antrum was made.
She was discharged from the hospital on April 28, 1923. “ General condition
is very good. No swelling o f soft parts overlying antrum. There remains,
however, some tenderness on pressure just at edge o f right nares. The suture
line was held except for small posterior portion described above. This has
not increased in size for past week and impression is that it will probably
hold. Patient’s hard palate is in good condition. No nasal discharge. (An­
trum has always seemed clear and swab passed through nose showed no evi­
dence of pus within antrum.) Patient advised to continue mouth washes care­
fully and to return to dispensary frequently.”
Supplementary note, April, 1925: “ Patient worked in phosphorus until
1920, when her present illness began, following a tooth extraction. This
makes it likely that there is a case of phosphorus necrosis of the maxilla.”
Case No. 12

Age, 21; colored; female.
Length o f time exposed to phosphorus, three years.
According to the dentist’s report, when the patient came to him in Novem­
ber, 1923, she had an opened necrosed first lower molar socket from which
a tooth had been extracted on the 1st of March, 1923. “ She had complained
o f pain and soreness beneath the wisdom tooth, which was sore to percussion,
the second molar not being in place.” She had worked in a fireworks plant
for two or three years and had gone back to work immediately after the
tooth was extracted, A Wassermann test taken by local health department



was negative. The swelling and pain in her jaw continued to increase in
spite of application of measures mentioned, the abscess opening in two places
in her face. Her temperature was 101° F. She was ordered to a hospital
in another city but, having no funds, was not admitted. On return, went
to the local health department and was given seven injections for syphilis,
with no results. She was then referred to an oral surgeon, a member o f the
State board of health, who took an active interest in her case and began
treatment of her jaw with encouraging results. An X ray taken by him showed
evidences of a mineral poison and secondary bone formation. The fistulous
areas in her face have healed and the sequestrum, which extends from the
first bicuspid to the ramus of jaw, is gradually working away. The patient
is still under treatment “ with prognosis favorable if her vitality can be kept
up to wall off the necrosed tissue. A strong solution o f potassium permangan­
ate (30 to 60 grs. to pint) with administration of bicarbonate of soda is being
used and a close tab is kept on patient in order to develop a high state of
resistance. She is not suffering to a great extent at present, but jaw is large
on account of secondary bone formation.”
Report of physician:
“ Was called into treatment of this case by dentist who, realizing the serious
condition of patient, desired medical aid. She was a worker in a fireworks
plant. A report from the health department of a Wassermann test was nega­
tive. She was suffering intensely from a necrosed jaw, which finally opened
in two places on outside of face, and these were running continuously. Her
temperature was 101° F. and she was ordered to hospital for treatment, but
was not entered on account of lack of funds. At present, after being treated
by an oral surgeon, she is in much better condition with prognosis favorable,
if vitality can be kept up.” 20
Case No. 13

Age, 21; colored; female.
Length of time exposed to phosphorus, five years..
The dentist report-s that this girl came to him April 29, 1925, with a necrosed
first lower molar socket which w^as swTollen and painful. Tooth had been
extracted September 1, 1924. “ She has been a worker in the fireworks
plant here at times for the past five years, and went back to work im­
mediately after tooth removal. A Wassermann test was made at the health
department here and was negative. Socket was cleaned and a strong solution
o f potassium permanganate given as a mouth wash with administration of
bicarbonate of soda. Swelling has continued until abscess has opened on face,
and pain has been very severe and very hard to relieve. Have administered
two or three sedative combinations, but with little relief, and since there has
been a free drainage for pus on face, she has become more comfortable. I
am treating case every three or four days and am attempting to keep the
necrosed area confined to one or two teeth. On her last visit it was noticed
that the first opening on face had partially closed and another one had
formed about an inch away, giving rise to pain, and this also was opened.
General supportive treatment is also being given. She is at this time in
danger of further spreading of the secondary infection, which has not been
as yet arrested, but it is hoped the measures taken will accomplish it.”
A blood analysis, made June 15, 1925, by the bacteriologist o f the local
health department showed the following:
Hemoglobin---------------------------------------------------------------Color index---------------------------------------------------------------95
Total red_____________________________________________ 3,424,000
Swab from abscess gave no growth on culture.
N ote .—This case later entered into agreement with the fireworks plant,
relieving the company of all responsibility on the payment of $50.
20 See p. 35 for an account o f the claim o f this worker fo r compensation for her injury.



Case Now 14

Age 22; colored; female.
Length of time exposed to phosphorus, three years.
The dentist reports that this patient came to him on May 10, 1925, with her
first lower molar socket necrosed and practically closed, save for a small open­
ing o f about one-eighth o f an inch. “Her jaw had been sore for a few months
but there has been no swelling. Pus runs continuously from the small opening
which has been enlarged, and the mouth wash mentioned (in Case No. IB) has
been given along with other measures.”
This young woman had been employed in a fireworks plant for about three
“ The extraction o f tooth was made in November, 1923. * * * Another
tooth was extracted on the opposite side in lower jaw and this socket has
a very small opening in gum also. This is slightly painful, but no swelling
has resulted. This jaw is being watched closely, for if both sides o f the jaw
are attacked by the secondary infection, the prognosis of case would be un­
favorable, as patient is highly nervous, not so strong physically. No Wassermann has as yet been made, but the signs are positive for phosphorus poison­
ing. This case shows that the action of phosphorus is very slow in some pa­
tients and works under a gum that seems to have closed over a long time before
reaching the abscess stage.”

In one o f the plants preparing phosphorus, four cases of chronic phosphorus
poisoning were discovered. A physician who treated three o f the men said
he had no records of the cases, since he had attended them a number o f years
ago, but he diagnosed all three as phosphorus necrosis and stated they all
suffered from pain, some fever, and finally a shedding of the bones o f the jaw.
One man suffered from necrosis o f the lower jaw, three from necrosis o f the
upper jaw, and one of the latter seems to have had necrosis in the lower jaw
Case No, 15

Age, 55; white; male.
This man contracted phosphorus necrosis after working about 10 years in
the plant, mostly in the yellow phosphorus process, handling the phosphorus
after it came from the furnace. The fumes from the phosphorus were very
heavy. The trouble started in what seemed to be a toothache, in 1912. The
man visited a dentist, who refused to pull any teeth and told him to go to a
doctor. Three teeth came out as clean as if scraped and scoured. The man
stated that every tooth, with the possible exception of one, was in good
condition. A tooth was pulled several days afterwards; in two weeks, three
more, and two weeks later, three more; then all the remaining teeth were
taken out. Later the jawbone came out. The flesh seemed to be eaten off
first, then the jawbone; and for about three months the odor was terrible.
After the bone came out the gum healed over. A mustache hides the de­
formity. It has been impossible to get a plate to fit in his mouth. The man
has been working for the past 13 years on a railroad and is apparently in
good health.
Case No. 16

Age, 50; white; male.
This man had been engaged in grinding, sciving, and working in red phos­
phorus for three years and developed phosphorus necrosis o f the upper jaw as
a result of the contact with impurities in the red phosphorus. The entire
upper jaw and roof of mouth gradually loosened, and after 12 or 14 months
came out. He had had no teeth in the upper jaw but had been wearing a
plate when he contracted phosphorus necrosis. (See fig. 4.) He had con­
tracted necrosis in April, 1916, but remained at work until August, 1916.
He claimed he was informed that red phosphorus was not poisonous
and that he could not develop necrosis from it. As plaintiff in a suit to re­
cover damages for injury, in January, 1917,21 he claimed that he did not know
there was any danger or peril to health from contact with red phosphorus,
and was not informed of any such danger, although that there was such danger
was well known to his employer. He stated that at the time o f entering the
21 See p. 35.




employment, as an inducement to his accepting the position, he was assured by
his employer that the said red phosphorus, in the treatment and production of
which he was set to work, was not poisonous and that the work required of
him would not hurt him. He is now employed in a paper mill and is in fair
Case No, 17

Age, 34; w hite; male.
This was a worker at the phosphorus extracting plant, who contracted phos­
phorus necrosis on both sides of the lower jaw. He had been working in the
plant about six and one-half years and in the processes which brought him into
contact with poisonous phosphorus about four and one-half years. At first he
helped to unload ca rs; he later went into the refining room, where he weighed
phosphorus, probably one of the most hazardous processes. After he con­
tracted phosphorus necrosis, for a month he was unable to work ; he suffered
intense pain and could not sleep night nor day. Two good-sized pieces o f bone
worked loose from his jaw— one an inch long and the other 2 inches long. He
is at present employed in a paper mill and is apparently in fair health. He
suffers some pain every now and then, and small particles of bone are still
being thrown off. The teeth in the front of the jaw are still in place, but the
teeth on both the right and left sides are missing.
Case No. 18

Age, 04; w hite; male.
The hospital record of this last case shows that the patient was admitted
to the hospital November 20, 1920, complaining o f pain in his upper jaw, which
he had first noticed about 10 weeks before. The pain grew gradually worse
and soon his upper jaw became swollen and the teeth became loose and were
easily pulled out, one at a time. For seven weeks before coming to hospital
he had noticed a discharge of pus from the upper jaw. The pain had been
increasing and patient had been getting steadily weaker and had frequent
headaches. During the last four weeks the teeth in right lower jaw had also
become loose and had been pulled out and the lower jaw had recently become
The history o f the patient showed that he had been working for 12 years
in a factory in which he was obliged to handle phosphorus and breathe phos­
phorus fumes a great deal. He had had typhoid fever 45 years a g o ; had never
had pneumonia or acute rheumatism. His nose was deformed as a result of
a fracture some years ago, and he had difficulty in breathing through it.
The examination of his mouth showed the absence o f all teeth except two in
the upper jaw, with redness, swelling, and tenderness of the gums and dis­
charge of pus from two or three places; the lower jaw showed the absence
o f several teeth on the right side, loosening of the incisors, and redness, swell­
ing, and tenderness of the gums. X ray of upper and lower jaws showed no
evidence of necrosis, except as localized abscesses around the dental roots.
There was a heavy clouding of both antra, especially the left, suggestive o f a
collection. The Wassermann report was negative.
This man is not able to work at all; he suffers a good deal of pain, and
seems to be continually getting worse. At one time the pain in the upper jaw
was so severe and the bones of the jaw and the roof of the mouth were so loose
that he pulled out the entire shell. (See fig. 5.)


Phosphorus has been used for a number of years as the chief in­
gredient in compounds designed to destroy certain pests. As early
as 1878 a patent (No. 204405) was taken out which claimed to make
a new and useful improvement in vermin-destroying compounds
by first boiling four gallons of sirup, then adding flour until the
mass assumes the consistency of a salve, then reheating same and
adding for each gallon of sirup 8 inches of ordinary phosphorus
Rumors that workers in the rat-paste industry, where* white (yel­
low) phosphorus is used in the rat poison, contract “ pbossy jaw led
to a survey of some of the factories which manufacture rat pastQ con-

FI G . 4.— CAS E N O . 16: U P P E R J A W B O N E , W H I C H C A M E A W A Y
12 OR 14 M O N T H S A F T E R N E C R O S I S D E V E L O P E D


FIG. 5 — CAS E NO . 18: U P P E R J A W B O N E .
A U G U S T 29, 1920. J A W B O N E C A M E O U T J A N U A R Y 22, 1923




taining white or yellow phosphorus. The 12 plants visited ranged
from a drug store which prepared a batch, containing about 50
pounds of the mixture, two or three times a year to a factory which
made rat paste 20 days a month, using 244 pounds a day. Many
establishments were not operating on the day the visit was made,
and one plant had been discontinued.
One of the former workers at this plant which was no longer in
operation knew most of the workers who had been employed in the
factory. She had helped make the paste 43 years ago, but had con­
tinued, in the work only a few years. She remembered that the
mixing of the paste had been done by hand by one man, and three or
four woman workers filled the small tin cans by hand and worked
steadily for 9 or 10 hours each day, but she had never heard of any
of the workers being ill or having trouble with their teeth.
In the rat-paste industry the largest batch mixed in any factory,
4,500 pounds, is made only once a week. In this case the paste is
mixed in a huge covered, cylindrical vat which extends almost to the
top of the small two-story wooden building. The ingredients are
poured in at the top and after being stirred for several hours by an
automatic agitator are released at the bottom of the vat into a hop­
per through which the paste runs into cans, four of which are re­
layed at a time along a conveyor and filled. The tops are put on
automatically. The only workers employed are men—a feeder, who
has been doing this work for 25 years, and his assistant. Fumes arise
during the filling process, but the filling takes only part of a day
once a week. A Sirocco blower carries off the fumes at the top of the
vat. The operator explained that as a general rule the cans were
filled when the mixture was cold, but on the day the plant was
visited they were in a hurry for an order and had not waited for
the paste to become cold, and for that reason the fumes were worse
than usual.
Most of the factories use an ordinary dough mixer in combining
the ingredients. The base, glucose and flour, is heated to about 82°
C. Later, into the warm mixture the phosphorus, which has been
broken by hand under water (the men for the most part using
rubber gloves) is dropped in. After this is properly mixed the
machine is tilted over and the paste poured into a filler pressure
machine which is kept closed. One man removes the filled tubes
from the machine and they are put aside until the next day, when a
girl closes the tube by machine. Some plants use a combination
filling and clinching machine. Usually an exhaust is provided for
removal of fumes. Occasionally a more primitive method of filling
is in use, where the paste is run into containers from a spigot in the
filling machine through funnels. The containers are placed in posi­
tion and removed when filled by male workers.

One of the manufacturers, who did not make rat paste more than
once a month, said that in his factory a batch was never mixed on a
damp day, for the fumes were much worse when the air was heavy.
A manager of a large factory said, when he was experimenting
with phosphorus rat paste and working in phosphorus fumes every
day during the entire working-day, he had become anemic, was
always tired, and had a headache all the time. He thought that at
one time he had had a slight cough. He had never had any trouble



with his teeth. He stated he would not allow his workers to handle
the paste every day, for he was sure it would be harmful.
There are very few workers employed in the rat-paste industry,
not more than eight in any factory visited, and usually two or
three, sometimes only one. Almost all of the plants manufacturing
rat paste make other chemical compounds as well. A large batch is
usually mixed at one time and a sufficient amount can be prepared
for the market without manufacturing the product every day. In
most plants the entire process can be completed in a day.
The workers all seem to know that white phosphorus is poisonous,
and state that they are very careful about thoroughly washing their
hands before eating. At only one plant was dental service given
(twice a year), and the workers could consult the dentist or not as they
pleased. Many take advantage of this service. At the same plant a
physical examination is given at the time the worker is hired. No
cases of illness as a result of the use of phosphorus were known in
any of the plants manufacturing rat paste.22

Admission of young persons to employment involving the use 01
phosphorus is fixed at 15 years* in Italy and Japan, at 16 in Belgium,
Spain, and Greece, and at IT in the Netherlands.23
In the United States, most of the State child labor laws which
mention phosphorus prohibit the employment of children only in the
manufacture of phosphorus or of phosphorus matches or both. Even
though poisonous phosphorus matches are no longer made in the
United States, as a result of the Esch Act passed in 1912, which im­
posed a prohibitory tax on matches containing yellow or white
phosphorus, States which have recently passed child labor laws in­
clude in their law this particular employment.
In the following 21 States a State board of labor or health has
authority to determine which occupations or processes are dangerous
or injurious to children under specified ages (usually 16 or 18
years) and to prohibit their employment therein: Alabama, Arizona,
Arkansas, California, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan,
Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio,
Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia, Wis­
consin, and Wyoming.24
Another type of provision is that prohibiting the employment of
minors under specified ages, usually 16 or 18 years, in any dangerous
or injurious occupations.

In certain countries the employment of women is prohibited in
the manufacture of white phosphorus—in the Netherlands, in all
22 The only recorded case o? phosphorus poisoning in this industry that could he dis­
covered occurred in New Zealand. For an account o f this case, see Appendix D, pp.
43 and 44.
28 International Labor Office. Occupation and Health Brochure No. 6 : Phosphorus, by
Dr. L. Ferranninl, Geneva, 1925, p. 7.
24 United States Children’ s Bureau Bulletin No. 9 3 : Child Labor, W ashington, Sep­
tember, 1924, p. 32.



employments using any kind of phosphorus, and in Japan, in any
place where dust, vapor, and gas are given off from phosphorus or
its compounds.
In the United States, while some States forbid certain employ­
ments to women, no law specifically includes phosphorus in the list
of forbidden occupations. In certain States, however, if the proper
authority so decides, phosphorus processes as well as other dangerous
processes can be forbidden to women. Thus, a Michigan act (No.
239, Acts of 1919) forbids the employment of any woman in any
place detrimental to her health, and the Wisconsin law (Stats, of
1923, sec. 103.05 (2)) forbids the employment of any woman in
any employment or place prejudicial to her health or safety, the
matter of determining which occupations or places are dangerous
being left to the industrial commission. . Also improvement of con­
ditions in plants where phosphorus is being used can be effected
under the general provisions of a number of State laws. Thus,
the Kansas minimum wage law, which has been declared unconsti­
tutional as regards the fixing of a minimum wage for women, also
contains a general provision (unaffected by the above decision)
authorizing the court of industrial relations to issue orders to remedy
working conditions which are, in the opinion of the court, prejudicial
to the health of the woman employees.

Reporting of cases of phosphorus necrosis is obligatory in Aus­
tria, Baden, Bavaria, Great Britain, Hungary, the Netherlands (in
the chemical industry and in laboratories), Poland, Prussia, Saxony,
Serb-Croat-Slovene Kingdom, Switzerland, in the British Domin­
ions (Alberta, South Australia, British Columbia, Manitoba, New
Brunswick, Nova Scotia, New South Wales, Ontario, and Queens­
In the United States, the laws of Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New
Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Wis­
consin require all physicians treating cases' of phosphorus poisoning
to report them to the State board of health. The Illinois and Mis­
souri laws do not specify any particular disease but require the re­
porting of all diseases arising from the use of dangerous chemicals.
Under the laws of Connecticut, Minnesota, and New York, phy­
sicians must report all cases of phosphorus poisoning to the commis­
sioner of labor; in Michigan, the board of health reports such cases
to the commissioner of labor; while the Massachusetts act provides
that the department of labor may require physicians to report to it
diseases contracted as a result of the nature of their employment.2*

The Illinois and Missouri laws require monthly physical examina­
tions of all workers in dangerous chemicals, that of Missouri speci­
fying phosphorus in addition to other chemicals.27
25 International Labor Office. Occupation and H ealth Brochure No. 6 : Phosphorus,
by Dr. L. Ferrannini, Genera, 1925, p. 8.
28 United States Bureau o f Labor Statistics Bulletin: No. 3 7 0 : Labor law s o f the
United States. Washington, May, 1925.
27 Such exam inations were one o f the measure® emphasized by D octor Ferrannini, as
was also special attention to the teeth. (International Labor Office. Occupation and
H ealth Brochure No. 6 : Phosphorus, by Dr. L , Ferrannini, Geneva, p. 8.)



The New York Consolidated Laws of 1909 (as amended by sec. 28,
ch. 642, Acts of 1921) authorize the industrial board to issue special
regulations when it finds that any industry, trade, occupation, or
process involves such elements of danger to life or health as to make
regulation necessary; it may, in carrying out the provisions of the
act, require “medical inspection and supervision of persons em­
ployed or applying for employment.”

In most of the States which have enacted legislation designed to
compensate workers for injuries received in the course of employment,
no provision is made for injury from disease due to the employment.
Only 12 States and the Federal Government provide compensation
either for occupational diseases generally or for designated diseases
of this class.28
Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio enumerate the occu­
pational diseases for which compensation may be awarded and in­
clude phosphorus poisoning in the list. Under the New Jersey law,
however, occupational diseases can be compensated for only when the
exposure occurs during the employment and the disability commences
within five months after the termination of such exposure. That this
limitation may lead to serious injustice in the case of chronic phos­
phorus poisoning is indicated by the fact that, according to Oliver,
phosphorus necrosis does not always develop during the time the in­
dividual is exposed to the hazard, but has been known to occur two
years after leaving the factory.29
The Federal Government, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massa­
chusetts, North Dakota, Porto Rico, and Wisconsin have workmen’s
compensation laws under which it is possible to compensate for
chronic phosphorus poisoning, but this industrial disease is not
specifically mentioned.30
In States, therefore, which do not make provision for compensation
of occupational diseases (and of the factories included in the present
survey only one is located in a State which does compensate for
phosphorus poisoning) employees attacked by phosphorus necrosis
have recourse only to common law for damages. Three of the em­
ployees whose cases have been noted in this study have tried to re­
cover for their injuries, under either common law or the workmen’s
compensation law of the State, with what success is shown in the
short account of the cases given below.
In the first instance, the girl (case No. 4, already described, pp. 21
to 23), who had been employed in a phosphorus-nreworks plant for
about 15 months, developed phosphorus necrosis and had to have
a large part of her jaw removed. Disfigurement for life will be the
probable result, and the prognosis seems to be that she will not be
able to survive for more than a few years. She brought suit under
38 United States Bureau o f Labor Statistics Bulletin No. 3 7 9 : Comparison o f work­
men’ s compensation law s o f the United States as o f January 1, 1925.
W ashington,
January, 1925, p. 6.
29 Oliver,, T h o m a s: Dangerous Trades. London, John Murray, 1902, p. 428.
80 Foreign countries which make provision for compensation fo r necrosis are Great
B ritain and its dominions, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Serb-Croat-Slovene Kingdom, and
Switzerland. (International Labor Office. Occupation and Health Brochure No. 6 :
Phosphorus, by Dr. L. Ferrannini. Geneva, 1925, p. 8.)



the common law, and in April, 1924, was awarded damages of $22,500.
When the case was carried to the court of appeals it ruled that the
disease was an accidental personal injury, and as such came within
the workmen’s compensation act. A new trial, however, was re­
quested and granted on the ground that the girl was illegally em­
ployed, being at time of employment under 18 years of age (the age
required by the child labor law of the State for those employed in
designated dangerous processes) and so not permitted to appeal for
compensation under the workmen’s compensation law. The case was
finally settled out of court, for $16,500, before the time came for the
new trial.
In the second instance, the worker (case No. 12, p. 27) who had con­
tracted phosphorus necrosis in a fireworks plant applied to the State
industrial commission for compensation, in the spring of 1925. Her
claim was rejected on the ground that phosphorus necrosis was an
occupational disease, and as such not compensable under the work­
men’s compensation law of the State.
In the third instance the man (case No. 16, p. 29) attempted to ob­
tain damages in a suit at common law. He had been employed in a
plant which prepared red phosphorus from white (yellow) phos­
phorus, and had developed phosphorus necrosis. The district court
ruled that the case came under the jurisdiction of the State indus­
trial commission. The referee of the industrial commission on May
3, 1917, refused compensation on the ground that the claimant was
suffering from phosphorus poisoning, an occupational disease, con­
tracted in the course of his employment, which was not due to nor
did it result or develop from any injury or violence to the physical
structure of the body and any disease or infection as naturally results
therefrom. The fact was also mentioned that in the phosphorus plant
the man had been paid a wage of $14.80 per week, while in the new
employment which he later entered he earned $16.80 per week, thus
showing that he had suffered no diminution in earning power.

Of the industries offering exposure to phosphorus poisoning three
were studied—the phosphorus-fireworks plants, the vermin-exterminator industry, and the phosphorus-extracting plants.
In the three plants manufacturing phosphorus fireworks 366 peo­
ple were employed— 181 men and 185 women. The workers en­
gaged in the phosphorus processes numbered 71, of whom 56 were
women (3 were minors under 16) and 15 were men (1 was a minor
under 16). Among the employees of these three factories there had
occurred 14 definite cases of phosphorus necrosis, 2 of which were
fatal. Three workers who had had cases of phosphorus necrosis
were still employed in the fireworks factories, but were no longer
working in phosphorus processes. In some instances the victims of
phosphorus necrosis had known that the material on which they
were working was poisonous, and had been warned to take precau­
tions, but the majority had not realized the harmful nature of their

Two phosphorus-extraction plants were studied. In one of them
four cases of phosphorus necrosis had occurred during a long period
of years. This factory has been shut down for the last five years.



The second factory has given particular care to the teeth of em­
ployees, furnishing free dental care, and inspecting the teeth of all
workers in phosphorus at frequent intervals. The doctor who has
been attending all cases of illness at this plant for the past 20 years
remembers only one case of necrosis (probably phosphorus), which
occurred almost 20 years ago, and which required curettement of
the tooth sockets. There was also a case of a diseased antrum in a
man who died about a year ago; this case, however, was not diag­
nosed as phosphorus necrosis.
In the manufacture of rat paste, probably because of the inter­
mittent character of the industry, no case of phosphorus necrosis
was found to have occurred.
The present study has demonstrated that there is still a real indus­
trial hazard from phosphorus, although the number of workers ex­
posed to the hazard is small.
The contrasting experience in the two phosphorus-preparation
plants would seem to indicate that in that industry, by constant pre­
ventive measures and special attention to the teeth of the workers in
phosphorus, cases of phosphorus necrosis can be almost entirely
The greatest hazard from white phosphorus is in the phosphorusfireworks industry. The danger can be decreased by various meas­
ures, some of which have already been adopted. Suitable ventila­
tion and exhaust pipes to remove the poisonous fumes before they
rise far enough to be breathed by the workers, adequate and conven­
ient washing facilities, provision of a room removed from the phos­
phorus processes where the employees may eat their lunch, transfer of
employees to nonphosphorus processes from time to time, regular den­
tal and medical inspection, transfer to nonphosphorus work of em­
ployees after extraction of a tooth, furnishing of mouth wash—all
of these are measures which will serve to reduce the danger of chronic
phosphorus poisoning. Introduction of automatic machinery for
shaping and wrapping of lozenges would also doubtless tend to
lessen the possibility of poisoning. It is absolutely essential, as well,
that persons employed on phosphorus processes realize not only that
there is a danger involved but also the possible outcome of chronic
poisoning, and notices and instruction on these points should be
The hazards inherent in the manufacture of phosphorus fireworks
are fully realized by the manufacturers themselves, and they have
been experimenting for some time to find a less dangerous substitute
for the white phosphorus. One manufacturer considers the work so
hazardous that he advocates the prohibition of use of white phos­
phorus. In a letter to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dated April
14, 1925, he says:
We are willing to, in fact, desirous of eliminating the use o f white or
yellow phosphorus in the fireworks industry as being detrimental to the in­
dustry as a whole, but have felt compelled to continue along this line until
such time as our competitors are willing to take similar action, by eliminat­
ing the use of this material entirely in their operation. Pending this time,
we have exerted every effort toward the development o f equipment and auto­
matic machinery, so as to prevent human contact with this element to the
greatest possible extent, and through recent development we will have reached
the point within the next few weeks whereby no handling o f this merchandise
in which white or yellow phosphorus is used will be done by our employees.

mjmmaky and c o n c lu s io n


In spite of these developments, however, we are still averse to the use of
phosphorus, and believe that Federal prohibition of the employment of this
ingredient will be to the ultimate advantage of all concerned.

The difficulties in the way of the elimination of the poisonous
phosphorus are just those stated by this manufacturer. The phos­
phorus product—known variously as “ spit devil,” “ son-of-a-gun,”
“ devil-on-the-walk,” “ automatic torpedo,” “ jumping jack,”
“ tank ”—is extremely popular with children on the Fourth of July
and in the South at Christmas time, and manufacturers, while re­
gretting the necessity of using poisonous phosphorus, insist that,
because of the great public demand, if one factory does not manu­
facture the toy another will, and unless all firms agree to give up
this variety of fireworks or unless the manufacture is prohibited it
would be unlikely that an individual concern would make such a
sacrifice even though favoring the elimination of poisonous phos­
It is worthy of note in this connection that at the semiannual
meeting of the U. S. Fireworks Manufacturers’ Association, held
January 30, 1926, in New York City, the following resolution was
It is the sense of the meeting that the IJ. S. Fireworks Manufacturers’ Asso­
ciation support the efforts of the Department of Labor to eliminate white
phosphorus from the fireworks industry.


The report by Professors Thorpe and Thomas Oliver and Dr. George Cun­
ningham on the use of phosphorus in the match industry1 gives in great detail
the European experience with phosphorus necrosis in the match industry.
According to this report, in Great Britain and Ireland, in 1896, the 25 match
factories employed 4,311 workers, 1,700 of whom worked in processes involv­
ing the use of phosphorus; between 1893 and 1898 there were 37 cases of
phosphorus necrosis reported. The match industry in Holland was compara­
tively small, employing about 570 workers in three factories, and seven cases
of necrosis were reported, but the number was probably much larger. In
Belgium, where in 13 factories about 2,600 workers were employed, from 1860
to 1895 one hospital operated on 34 men for phosphorus necrosis. When 30
per cent of phosphorus was used, there were many cases of phosphorus poi­
soning, but the number decreased somewhat with the manufacture of matches
made with only 8 per cent of phosphorus. Seven factories in Denmark em­
ployed 76 adults and 180 children in 1874. In five years two hospitals had
treated 11 cases of phosphorus necrosis, but between the passing of the law
of 1874, prohibiting the use of white phosphorus in matches, and the time of
the report, not a case of phosphorus necrosis had been known. In Germany,
where 30 of the 90 match factories were exclusively engaged in the manu­
facture of phosphorus sulphur matches, 11 cases of necrosis were reported in
1894, 5 of these in three factories. In Austria-Hungary, from 1881 to 1897,
there were 140 cases of phosphorus necrosis in the 90 factories manufacturing
the phosphorus matches; 47 of these cases occurred in one year. In Switzer­
land, 5 to 10 cases of phosphorus necrosis occurred among the 300 match
workers every year. In Norway, 400 of the 600 match workers were employed
in manufacturing ordinary phosphorus matches, and in the 6 phosphorusmatch factories, 28 cases of phosphorus necrosis occurred between 1880 and
In Sweden the match industry began to increase rapidly about 1840. Between
1860 and 1870 there were 69 cases of phosphorus necrosis, according to Lundgren’s article on phosphorus poisoning in Sweden.2 In 1870 a law was passed
regulating the industry. These regulations included the following provisions:
Specially constructed building; separate rooms for (a) preparation o f paste
and dipping, (&) drying, (c) packing; special methods o f ventilation; size of
rooms in proportion to number of workers; inspection before commencement
of operation; prohibition of employment in preparation of paste and in dipping
for workers less than 15 years of a g e ; employment in preparation o f paste
and dipping for not more than six months at any one time, with an interval
of two months in other departments before return to dangerous processes;
record of workers, giving date of entrance and leaving phosphorus processes;
medical examination every three months, duly recorded; special working gar­
ments; clear water and soap accessible to workers; cleaning o f workrooms
once a day and washing of floors and walls every fourteenth d a y ; and prohibi­
tion o f eating in workrooms.
The above was the first modern legislation concerning working conditions
in industry, and resulted in a decrease of cases of phosphorus necrosis. An
act, effective July 1, 1897, made the regulations even stricter, prohibiting the
employment of any minor under 18 in the preparation of the paste or dipping,
and any minor under 14 in drying and packing matches. Workers under the
1 Great Britain. Home Office. R eports
o f lu cifer matches, by Prof. T. EX Thorpe,
ham. London, 1899. [C. 9188.]
2 Nordisk Hygienisk Tidsskrift, Bind II,
industrien i Sverige till forekommande av


on the use o f phosphorus in the m anufacture
P rof. Thom as Oliver, and Dr. George Cunning­
1921, pp. 128-143 : “ Atg&rder inom t’a ndstickfosfornekros,” by P. G. Lundgren.



new regulations were not permitted to work more than one month at a time
in the preparation of paste or in the dipping of matches, and were to have
intervals of employment in other processes of at least one month before
working again in the dangerous phosphorus departments.3
In spite of these strict regulations, cases of necrosis continued to develop,
and in 1920 Sweden amended the law of 1900 which forbade the sale o f
phosphorus matches so as to include the manufacture and importation.
Lundgren gives a table showing the number of cases o f phosphorus necrosis
in Sweden, by five-year periods, and the number o f workers employed. The
data shown in this table are as follow s: 1901 to 1905— 5,923 match workers,
o f whom about 1,100 were in phosphorus-match factories, and 27 cases of
phosphorus necrosis, or 24.5 per thousand workers; 1906 to 1910—6,558 match
workers, of whom 1,200 were making phosphorus matches, and 15 cases of
phosphorus necrosis, or about 12.5 per thousand workers; 1911 to 1915— 7,172
match workers, of whom 600 were in phosphorus-match factories, and 6 cases
of necrosis, or about 10 per thousand workers.4

In Japan the match industry employs large numbers of workers, and in
Spain many workers are engaged in the manufacture of matches, but no
figures are available on the number of cases of phosphorus necrosis which
occurred before the use of poisonous phosphorus was prohibited in these
A recent study of phosphorus necrosis in the match industry in China,
undertaken for the industrial committee of the National Christian Council of
China, notes about 40 cases of necrosis—reports of 20 of which were obtained
from hospitals and 20 from managers of factories, among a possible 15,000
workers; but the writer considers the number a decided understatement of the
hazards of the industry, due to the following causes: Failure to diagnose the
disease as phosphorus necrosis; the possibility that such patients return to
their country homes and eventually seek treatment at hospitals in cities
where there are no factories; the large labor turnover which results in few
workers remaining long exposed to the poison; sounder teeth among Chinese
workers than among the class of Europeans who used to work in western fac­
tories (although there is no conclusive evidence that this is true) ; and better
natural ventilation in the loosely constructed Chinese buildings than in the
more solid structures of the west.7 China is now a signatory o f the inter­
national (Bern) convention and has prohimbited the use of white phosphorus
in match factories since June, 1925.

The cases of phosphorus necrosis discovered by the agents o f the Bureau
o f Labor in a general investigation of the employment of women and children
in 1908 and 1909 led to a special study, under the auspices of the Bureau of
Labor and the American Association for Labor Legislation, o f the extent o f
phosphorus poisoning from the use of white (yellow) phosphorus in the
manufacture of matches.
Fifteen of the sixteen match factories in the United States were visited.
These factories had in their employ 3,591 persons—2,024 men and 1,253 women
16 years of age and over, and 314 children under 16 years o f age (121 boys
and 193 girls). Of the workers 65 per cent were employed under conditions
exposing them to the fumes o f phosphorus and to the dangers o f phosphorus
poisoning. A large percentage of women and children were working in phos­
phorus processes—95 per cent of the women and 83 per cent o f the children
under 16 years. The cases of phosphorus necrosis discovered numbered over
8 Molin, A., and Marcus, M .: F orfattningar rorande arbetarsky0d. Stockholm, 1912,
pp. 108-116.
4 Nordisk Hygienisk Tidsskrift, Bind II, 1921, p. 1 4 3 : Atgarder inom tandstickindustrien i Sverige till forekom mande av fosfornekros,” by P. G. Lundgren.
6 International A ssociation fo r Labor Legislation. R eport o f the F ifth General Meet­
in g o f the Committee o f the International Association fo r Labor Legislation, held a t
Lucerne, Sept. 28-30, 1908. London, 1909, p. 47.
7 M aitland, Charles T . : Phosphorus poisoning in m atch factories in China. Reprinted
from the China Journal o f Science and A rts, February and M arch, 1925.



150; 4 of these were fatal, and many involved horrible suffering and de­

AFTER 1915
Dr. T. M. Legge, chief medical inspector of factories in Great Britain in his
annual report for the year 1918, discussed as follows the cases o f “ phossy
jaw ” which have developed in that country in recent years:
“ ‘ Phossy jaw ’ underwent recrudescence in 1915-1918, during which time 11
cases were reported from the one factory in which the manufacture of
phosphorus is carried on. Until these cases, an apparent immunity, extend­
ing over many years, had been enjoyed. Although the number of individual
workers brought into contact with phosphorus for one and another war pur­
pose had been considerable, only one case has been reported in processes other
than the manufacture. With this exception, all had worked for years in
phosphorus processes. In the factory in question, examination o f the dental
condition by a surgeon and reference by him to a dentist of those whom he
considered needed treatment had been relied on in past years, instead o f
examination by a dentist in the first instance, which would, in my opinion,
have been the wiser course. After the first case (which proved fatal) in 1914,
the firm engaged the services of a dentist with the intention, since carried out,
o f putting the teeth of all those coming into contact with phosphorus into a
sound condition, and linking up the work of the dentist with that o f a consult­
ing surgeon of the highest standing in case of need. The dentist attends two
afternoons a week in the well-equipped dental surgery on the works and
quarterly examination of all the workers has been arranged for. This examina­
tion has led to the detection of the cases o f necrosis the presence o f which was
shown after the removal of the decayed teeth. No case has been reported
since July, 1918. Dealing with these cases Mr. Thomas (Walsall) reports as
follow s:
“ ‘ With three exceptions, all the cases reported as suffering from phosphorus
poisoning have been employed in connection with the condenser plant. The
condenser plant is situated at the back o f the furnaces, and the whole is con­
tained in one large lofty building. Men employed in the phosphorus process
can be divided into two sections—furnace men and condenser men. It is
noteworthy that among the furnace men no cases have been reported. These
men do not handle phosphorus but are subject to the pentoxide fumes o f
burning phosphorus when any slight leak occurs on the furnace. Although in
the same building as the condensers, the fumes from the condenser side do
not appear to reach these men to any extent. This is probably due to the
heated air rising from the furnace acting as a kind o f screen. A much larger
number of men are employed in handling phosphorus and phosphorus mud on
the condenser side.
“ ‘ In emptying the condensers the crude phosphorus is siphoned off while in
the molten state and run under water into cast-iron molds where it solidifies.
After the phosphorus is drawn off, the residues, known as phosphorus mud, are
also siphoned off and removed for further treatment.
“ ‘ During the siphoning and subsequent handling o f the crude phosphorus
and mud, fumes consisting of the lower oxides of phosphorus arise and similar
fumes come from the mud which has splashed onto the wet floor. It was
hardly practicable to remove these fumes by exhaust ventilation, as there were
so many points of origin. The efforts of the firm were concentrated on im­
proving the condensers and the drainage of floors. Concrete was largely used
in place of wood for the condensers and the floors between condensers were
relaid. This improved the conditions, as splashes of phosphorus or mud could
easily be swilled away. In addition, the sides of the building were opened up,
so as to obtain better general ventilation. With improved condensers improved
methods o f working were introduced, so as to reduce the amount of handling
and consequent exposure to air of the crude phosphorus and phosphorus mud.
The amount of fume in the air became noticeably less, but there was still room
for improvement. Further experiments were made which have proved that
in the future it will be possible to draw off the phosphorus and phosphorus
s United States Bureau of Labor Bulletin No. 86.
industry in the United States, by John B. Andrews.

Phosphorus poisoning in the match
Washington, January, 1910.



muds from the condensers in such a way that fumes can only escape at one or
two points. These points of escape can easily be dealt with by means of
exhaust ventilation.
“ 4Two cases of phosphorus poisoning occurred in the amorphous phos­
phorus department. In this department yellow phosphorus is converted into
the amorphous or red variety. The amount of fume in this process is not
great, and, as the fumes are given off at definite points, they can be dealt
with by means of exhaust ventilation. A satisfactory system of exhaust ven­
tilation is now working.’ ” 9
One case o f phosphorus necrosis was reported from the factory in which
phosphorus and its compounds were prepared. The case was unusual in that
duration of employment had been four years only, and the man was employed
in the drying and finishing room for phosphorus sesquisulphide, where ex­
posure to phosphorus fumes would occur only when firing took place. This
was the first case that had occurred in this department. Necrosis involved the
right lower jaw.10
In Great Britain the law requires that cases- of certain industrial poisons,
including phosphorus, be reported. The following cases of phosphorus poison­
ing were reported from 1900 to 1918.11 So far as is known no cases have arisen
since 1919.
of cases

190 0
190 1
190 2
1903-190513______________ i __________________________________ 142
191 5
191 6
191 7
191 8
One case was reported in 1919 from the factory in which phosphorus and its
compounds are prepared.® No cases have occurred since 1919.

Phosphorus fireworks containing poisonous phosphorus are manufactured
primarily for the use of children, and are sold extensively around the Fourth
of July and in the Southern States! at Christmas time. Some forms of these
fireworks resemble candy lozenges, and children, mistaking them for candy,
often put the toy into their mouths and perhaps swallow part of it, with fatal
results, as is shown by the following cases, obtained from the medical records
of physicians, hospitals, and bureaus of vital statistics, which have come to
the attention of the bureau but which by no means include all such cases:
Thelma B., aged 11 years, died in Baltimore July 11, 1923, “ as a result of
phosphorus poisoning from swallowing a piece of firecracker containing
poison. ”
Vashtie H., aged 7 years, died July 7, 1923, in Baltimore. The cause of
death was given as poisoning, following the eating of a “ spit devil.” Her ill­
ness lasted three days.
Catherine F., aged 5 years, died July 5, 1922, in New York City, of acute
phosphorus poisoning, after an illness of six days, which began with vomiting,
pain in the region of the liver, nausea, and constipation. She was taken to the
hospital July 5, at 10 a. m. and died at 8.15 p. m. the same day. The following
symptoms were recorded when patient was examined, after admission to hos­
pital : The child was unconscious, slightly jaundiced, pupils dilated, equal
9 Great Britain. Chief inspector o f factories and workshops.
year 1918. London, 1919, p. 67. [Cmd. 340.]
10Idem, 1919. [Cmd. 941], p. 62.
° Idem, p. 62.
11 Idem, 1918. [Cmd. 340], p. 65.
12 rpwo fatal.
13 Average.
14 One fatal.

Annual report for the



reaction to light; crepitant rales heard on both sides o f chest, heart regular,
abdomen tenderness, enlargement of liver, abdomen distended. Temperature,
100°; pulse, 112° ; respiration, 28.
Katherine C., aged 2 years, died July 8, 1922, in New York City, after an
illness of two days. She was taken to the hospital at 6.30 p m. in an un­
conscious state and died at 8.30 p. m.
George S.. aged 9 years, died September 4, 1922, in New York City, from
phosphorus poisoning, following the eating of a “ nigger chaser.’’ The child
came home the day before his death complaining of nausea, vomiting, and
“ feeling sick ” and told his parents he had eaten a “ nigger chaser.” He de­
veloped convulsions at noon, lasting one-half hour, and died at 10.40 p. m. the
same day.
Ruth K., of Jersey City, aged 2% years, swallowed a “ son-of-a-gun ” on June
17, 1924 at 3.30 p. m. and became seriously ill. She was taken to the hospital
and died at 5.15 the next morning.
James Burleson, aged 13 months, and Ida Bell Vann, 18 months, both o f
Pensacola, Fla., died December 25, 1923, from chewing fireworks known as
“ dancing devils.”
Doctor S., health officer at Lyons, N. Y., reports the death of a little girl, 5
years old, from eating “ devils-on-the walk.” When a physician was called on
July 7, she was beyond help.
Doctor J., of Whistler, Ala., reports the death of Cammie G., aged 2 years, on
December 20, 1923, from “ acute gastritis” due to eating a form o f fireworks
known locally as “ son-of-a-gun.”
John F., of Minneapolis, Minn., aged 1 y^ar, died July 5, 1924, from ac­
cidental poisoning from ingestion o f phosphorus in fireworks. The night previ­
ous to his death, he ate some pieces of “ sons-of-a-guns ” and vomited; no doctor
was called. He seemed to improve, but duiing the afternoon o f the day o f
his death he became worse and a doctor was called. Death occurred at 4.15
p. m.
A child in Hartford, Conn., 31/4 years old, died February 9, 1924, from acute
phosphorus poisoning, as a result of eating fireworks containing white (yellow)
A child 2 years old died July 7, 1924, at Rome, N. Y., as a result o f acute
phosphorus poisoning from eating phosphorus fireworks.
A child in Montgomery, Ala., 2 years old, died December 22, 1924, from acute
phosphorus poisoning as a result of eating fireworks containing poisonous
In a recent article in the Journal o f the American Medical Association,15
the danger to children from fireworks containing white or yellow phosphorus
is discussed. The case of a 3-year-old child of Kansas City, Kans., is reported,
who, on July 4, 1924, ate a “ spit devil,” and next day suffered great abdominal
pain and vomited frequently. Treatment consisted of 1 ounce of castor oil
and one-half ounce of Epsom salts, which was soon vomited. Three days later
he was taken to the children’s hospital where death occurred at 4.30 a. m.,
July 8.
In Eunice, La., Gary C., aged 2 years, died March 27, 1924, from poisoning
due to eating “ spit-fire.” On January 12, 1924, after an illness of three days,
Gloria O., aged 1 year and 7 months, died of poisoning from the same cause.
The American Museum of Safety reports that the following children died as
a result of eating phosphorus fireworks, about the Fourth of July, 1925:
Emmet Holden. Rochester, N. Y., 4 years old.
Henry Trueheart Adriance, Galveston, Tex., 2j/» years.
Thomas G. Ramsey, Kansas City, Mo., 3 years.
James Yernon Blizzard, St. Joseph. Mo., 6 years.
Hazel Lewis, Kansas City, Mo., 2 years.
Theresa Brule, Rumford Falls, Me., 7 years.
Richard E. Tracy, Rochester, N. Y., 3% years.
Ernestine Nye, Patchogue, Long Island, N. Y., 2 years.
Lillian Lensing, Rochester, N. Y., 4 years.
After the death of the two Louisiana children, an aroused public opinion
resulted in the passage of the following law (Act No. 104, Acts of 1924) :
15 Journal o f the American Medical Association, Apr. 25, 1925, p. 2 5 4 : “ Phosphorus
poisoning in a child from the ingestion o f fireworks,” by Hugh L. Dwyer, M. D., and
Ferdinand C. H elwig, M. D.



“ S ection 1. It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to sell,
exchange, barter, or in any other manner dispose of ‘ spit devils/ ‘ devil on the
walk,’ and ‘ son of a gun,’ or other similar device, or any other friction fire­
work containing white or yellow phosphorus.
“ S ec . 2. The term ‘ spit devils,’ ‘ devils on the walk,’ *son of a gun,’ or
other similar device, or any other friction firework containing white or yellow
phosphorus, is hereby defined to be a noise-making firework, resembling a piece
of candy in size and general appearance.
“ S ec . 3. Any violation of the provisions of the act shall, upon conviction, be
punished by a fine of not more than $50, or imprisonment for not more than
60 days, or both, at the discretion of the court.”
So dangerous are these fireworks regarded even in the fireworks trade that
a large distributor of fireworks has since early in 1924 refused to handle them*
so advising its patrons in the following letter:
J a n u a r y 10, 1924.
“ We wish to advise you that on account of newspaper reports such as the
following, of deaths resulting from children mistaking for candy the phos­
phorus item which is sold under different names, such as son of a gun,
devil on walk, spit devils, dancing devils, we have decided not fo handle same:
“Pensacola, Fla. Dec. 25.—James Burleson, 13 months, and* Ida Bell Vann,
18 months, are dead from chewing fireworks known as *dancing devils.’
“ We have not manufactured these goods, but have from time to time
handled them for the accommodation of our jobbing friends, so under the cir­
cumstances we will not ship you these items on your order.
“We are advising you as above so that you may be governed accordingly.
Life is too precious to be jeopardized by the sale of an item reported as so

The following case of phosphorus poisoning which occurred in New Zealand
is the only one that has been discovered in the exterminator industry. It is
recorded as follow s:
“ *Phossy jaw ,’ as phosphorus necrosis of the jaw is called by factory work­
ers, is becoming increasingly rare since the use of the poisonous yellow
phosphorus has been prohibited by law. The present is the only case I have
any cognizance of in which the ‘ phossy jaw ’ was acquired through mixing
rabbit poison (phosphorus and pollard, etc.).
“ The patient, a man, age 60, had been engaged for many years in mixing
such rabbit poison in Central Otugo, New Zealand. About 12 months ago he
began to have pain in a lower wisdom tooth ; this was extracted, and he went
on with his work. About a month afterwards he was sent down to me with a
well-marked periostitis and necrosis on the left side o f the mandible, which,
despite very free incisions and efficient drainage, both inside the mouth and
under the jaw externally, rapidly spread all around the jaw. The pain during
this period was severe, and only morphia controlled it. The acute stage, how­
ever, soon subsided, and the tissues settled down to sequestration, accompanied
by much suppuration for which free external drainage was provided on both
sides of the jaw. The patient’s health was maintained at as high a level as
possible during this period by a very nourishing diet, tonics, and fresh air.
His resistance kept up well and he showed no signs at all of a general toxaeemia, which is the cause of fatal termination in such cases.
“At the end of six months, judging sequestration to be complete with the
development of a considerable involucrum all around the jaw, I proceeded to
remove the necrosed bone. This was done in two stages. The left half was
removed first in two sections through a long incision below the mandible, the
involucrum being split along its lower border to allow of removal of the con­
tained sequestrum; this was accomplished without any very great difficulty.
Three weeks later the right side of the jaw was treated in similar manner with
an equally satisfactory result. It is essential that such cases be left until
complete sequestration has taken place, in order to stimulate the formation of
new bone; the old method of curre^ting led to disastrous results.
“ The four pieces o f the necrosed mandible, on being put together, showed
that the sequestrum consisted o f a complete mandible— constituting a somewhat
unique specimen,



“ The patient has made an excellent recovery * * * there is a small
amount of deformity. The formation of new bone is taking place freely. For
some time— about a fortnight—he had difficulty in controlling his tongue and
preventing it from falling back into his pharynx, especially at night, but when
the involucrum—new mandible—united again this trouble ceased.
“ The interest in this case centers around several points:
“ 1. The extensive destruction o f bone.
“ 2. The excellent stimulus to new bone formation derived from the presence
of the sequestrum.
“ 3. The advantage obtained by not being in too great a hurry to remove
the sequestrum, and especially the avoidance of continual currettings.16
16 British Journal o f Surgery, January, 1923, p. 380 : “ Phosphorus necrosis o f the man­
dible,” by H. P. Pickerill.