HC Deb 16 June 1913 vol 54 cc53-4W

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that the number of deaths from lead poisoning reported by the Chief Inspector of Factories under the Factory and Workshop Act, 1901, was twice as large as in the triennial period 1910–12, under special regulations, as in the period 1902–4; and whether he is satisfied that this effect of administration promises abatement of lead poisoning?


I am aware that the number of fatal cases of lead poisoning included in the annual returns for 1910–12 is twice as large as the number for the years 1902–4. The Medical Inspector of Factories, to whose annual reports I would refer my hon. Friend for fuller details, regards this not as indicating an increase in the actual number of fatal cases, but as due to the recognition that diseases such as chronic interstitial nephritis and cerebral hemorrhage may be sequelce of lead poisoning, and also to the greater inclination to certify deaths of lead workers from associated diseases such as phthisis, gastric ulcer, etc., as having been accelerated by lead poisoning. It must be borne in mind that the returns include all cases in which lead poisoning is mentioned in the death certificate as being either directly or indirectly the cause, and that, as has been frequently pointed out by the medical inspector, it is in many of these cases extremely doubtful whether lead poisoning has been responsible for the death. Better tests of the effect of administrative action for the prevention of lead poisoning would be a comparison of the number of cases in which death is due to acute lead poisoning, and in non-fatal cases a comparison of the proportion of severe as distinguished from slight cases. In 1910–12 the number of deaths due to acute lead poisoning was six only as compared with fourteen in 1902–4, and the percentage of severe cases, 18.2 as compared with 30.4 in 1902–4.