The Shortform
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The Shortform

1 Minute Weird: Arsenic and Old Wallpaper

Elemental Arsenic Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Victorian homes were death traps. However, one of the unique ways to die in a Victorian-era home was Arsenic laced wallpaper. In the endeavor to create a more true and resilient green, some wallpaper was imbued with arsenic. The pigment had a special name, Scheele’s Green, and was fashionable and a known poison to the inventor.

Arsenic for vanity is just as deadly as the type of arsenic that makes the news in domestic disputes. The wallpaper in otherwise damp, poorly ventilated rooms lit by fire and other traditional methods available at the time would flake and off-gas into the ambient air creating a series of illnesses that were initially mysterious — nausea, skin lesions, cancer, and psychosis among them. Medical science tracked the illnesses down to the wallpaper, but manufacturers largely ignored the risk until much later on.

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Marissa Newby

Marissa Newby

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Blogger, horror writer, poet, feminist, existential crisis