These Green Books Are Poisonous - Here's Why

Health May 09, 2022

Did you ever think that you can get poisoned by simply holding a book of beautiful emerald colour? Well, neither did we, but something needs to be said about the tendencies of our predecessors to make dye from literally anything that would create a beautiful colour, no matter how deadly it was.

In most cases, people didn't realize that they were using a toxic ingredient to create all those vivid colours back in the day, but now as the knowledge of chemistry have advanced significantly, scientists make fascinating discoveries almost every day.

If you've ever seen an old 19th century book clad in a bright green cloth as a cover, chances are that you've witnessed the infamous emerald green hue that was laced with arsenic. The Poison Book Project was created to locate and gather as many of those books as possible to avoid people getting injured by a toxic book cover. To date, they have found 88 such books clad in toxic covers or having emerald green elements embedded in the ornament. The head of the project, Melissa Tedone, even found one such book at a local sale and was happy to purchase it to add to the noxious book collection.

While these toxic tomes pose almost no danger to regular people that would simply put such a book on a shelf and admire it from afar, there is still a threat to get a minor arsenic poisoning if a person inhales parts of arsenic embedded in such books. We're talking about librarians, who work with books frequently and touch them on a regular basis, as well as researchers and university students.

Arsenic poisoning can result in lesions and all kinds of skin irritations, along with light-headedness and feeling lethargic. In more serious cases, arsenic can cause neurological dysfunction and heart failure.

You'd be surprised to find out that the effect of arsenic was widely known back in 19th century, but despite all that, this emerald green pigment was produced on a national scale in Victorian Era Great Britain - England alone produced around 700 tons of this poisonous dye and it was used literally everywhere from clothes and curtains, to table cloths and fake flowers. People were wearing poison because the colour was so popular in the middle of 19th century. Now thousands of books are located in libraries all across the globe, posing a serious health threat to people working with them.


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