remaining embedded in the tissues owing to gun-shot injuries may produce
poisonous symptoms within a few weeks or even after years.
Compounds of lead are poisonous, provided that they are in a condition
fit for absorption, either by the skin, gastric mucous membrane or lungs.
In the absence of air, pure water has no action upon lead, but in the
presence of air slightly soluble lead hydroxide is formed. Moreover, the
solvent action of water upon lead is greatly influenced by the presence of
chlorides, nitrates, and carbon dioxide dissolved under pressure. Water
containing carbonates, sulphates and phosphates has no action on lead.
2. Acute lead poisoning is very rare, and usually terminates in
recovery. Hence it has very little toxicological importance, but chronic
poisoning is more common, and is very interesting from a hygienic point of
view, as it is regarded as an industrial disease.
Cases of chronic lead poisoning may be referred to .a medical practitioner
under the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923, for the workmen who con-
tract the disease in the course of and by reason of their employment are
entitled to compensation from their employer during such time as they are
incapacitated from earning their living, or if death occurs from the disease,
the dependants of the deceased are entitled to compensation.
The chief compounds of lead which produce poisonous symptoms are
acetate, carbonate, chromate and oxides of lead. The chloride and nitrate
do not figure so much in medico-legal work, as they are not easily obtainable
by the public.
Homicidal poisoning by lead salts is a rare occurrence.
In Landberg, a town in Bradenburg, a woman gave her husband a powder contain-
ing white lead in a glass of beer. Soon after taking it the husband was taken ill with
severe colic. As the symptoms recurred repeatedly, a doctor was consulted, who found
the patient with a livid complexion and suffering from spasmodic contraction of the
intestine, severe constipation which could, in no way, be overcome, and retention of
•urine. His condition grew worse, and he died about a month later. On the examination
of the body the stomach and the intestines were shown to form a dark mass containing
sulphide of lead, which was detected in nearly every organ of the body, the total quan-
tity being 19 grains.^
Lead is used criminally as an abortifacient It acts by producing tonic
- contractions of the uterus and by causing degeneration of embryonic cells
and the chorional epithelium. A woman is reported to have successfully
aborted after having taken half an ounce of a solution of lead acetate (70
grains to a pint of boiling water) three times a day for about a month. She
also suffered from symptoms of chronic lead poisoning.7
The paste used for anointing " abortion sticks " often contains red lead
as the chief ingredient. The use of diachylon or lead paste as an aborti-
facient had been so common that on the recommendation of the Pharma-
ceutical Society the Privy Council of England ordained in May 1917, that the
substance should be included in the first part of the schedule of poisons.
Red lead is occasionally used as a cattle poison either alone or mixed
with white arsenic. A case8 is recorded in which a young woman gave red
lead to her husband in food, but without any ill effects. It is also used to
adulterate snuff to improve its colour.
Most of the accidental cases have occurred from administering a large
dose of lead acetate in mistake.
Accidental chronic poisoning has occurred from the use of litharge or
lead monoxide (Mudrasang) as a remedy for syphilis by quacks.
6. Lancet, Jan. 7, 1928, p. 48.
7. J. N. Marshall Chalmers and Sidney Lionel Thompsett, Lancet, April 30, 1938,
8. UJP. Chem. Examiner's Annual Rep., 1928, p. 4.