Cheap hats and red socks could be clothing to die for

One of the most curious deaths on record took place a few weeks ago at a London hospital.

One of the most curious deaths on record took place a few weeks ago at a London hospital.

A chauffeur died owing to his boot polish having poisoned him through the boot leather. He had been in the habit of polishing his tan boots with a paste containing aniline oil. In the course of time the oil had soaked through and set up blood-poisoning.

Almost any article of clothing may murder you. The glossy white inner bands often to be found in cheap hats usually get their gloss from lead, a poison that may be readily absorbed through the skin. (The phrase ‘mad as a hatter’ is likely a reference to mercury poisoning among milliners, as mercury-based compounds were once used in the manufacture of felt hats. The Mad Hatter character of Alice in Wonderland was, it is presumed, inspired by an eccentric furniture dealer named Theophilus Carter. Carter was not a victim of mad hatter disease although Lewis Carroll would have been familiar with the phenomenon)

Other strong irritant poisons such as arsenic are sometimes used for glazing these bands, a fact which accounts for many cases of eczema.

The ‘glad rags’, so popular among women just now, have their dangers.

Brilliantly coloured clothing, especially when it touches the skin, as in the case of socks, often causes symptoms of mineral poisoning. The perspiration of the body is apt to dissolve and absorb the colouring dyes, which often contain aniline poisons.

Scarlet socks are the worst offenders. The house surgeon of a London hospital has declared that sometimes he has had six cases of red-sock poisoning in a week. Some cases are fatal.

Cheap gloves, too, occasionally cause nasty eruptions on the hands, owing to the presence of arsenic.