Tuesday, 28 June 2011

green paint and arsenic!

Hello, It's been a while since I last blogged but i was inspired to write about Farrow and Balls paint colour 'Arsenic green.In the past many paints were poisonous due to the way they were made, darker colours used a red lead base and lighter colours used a white lead base. Nowadays most emulsion paints are also slightly poisonous due to their VOC's. Natural paints are often classed as so because they are derived from an organic materials used in the petrochemical business. Only ecological paints are Ok because they are free from chemicals such as polymers and are non toxic .( http://www.nutshellpaints.co.uk/ )
Scheele's Green was a pigment that was used in fabrics, wallpapers and paints since 1770. The colour was bright green and was easy to make, but was based on copper arsenite.
If wallpaper got damp and mouldy the mould would get rid of the arsenite by creating a very poisonous vapour arsenite. When Napoleon was living  at St Helena he had gold and green star wallpaper. In 2008 it was discovered that Napolean may have died of 'Gosio's disease, he died not because of the British Authorities but by the British Wallpaper manufacturers. The wallpaper would make healthy people sick but once Napoleon was ill with a stomach ulcer the arsenic would have made him worse.
Apparently William Morris was a director of a company producing arsenic. It was a bi product of the smelting industry and was big business. Of course a huge amount of William Morris's designs used green. Unfortunately later when it was widely known that arsenic was poisonous William Morris continued to use it. http://www.william-morris.co.uk/
In 1879 a visiting dignitary was ill one morning after staying the night in one of the bedrooms of Buckingham Palace, and blamed his illness on the wallpaper. Queen Victoria had all the green wallpaper in the Palace removed 'so as to suppress decorations calculated to ensure a torturing death'
As far as fabrics a doctor found enough arsenic in a Society Ladies Ballgown to kill 12 people! The dye was so loosely bound that it gave of a cloud of arsenic dust into the air. 'Well may the wearer of such a gown be called drop-dead gorgeous' he said 'she carries in her skirts poison enough to slay the whole of the admirers she may meet within half a dozen ballrooms'.
Oscar Wilde on his death bed in the L'hotel said 'My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death.One or other of us has to go'. The room was green and I'm sure he would have been aware of it's history. L'Hotel is also owned by The Cowley Manor Hotel, near me. http://www.l-hotel.com/ look at History/ about.

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