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These Researchers Have Identified Over 300 Poisonous Books That Can Pose A Real Danger To The Health Of Those Handling Them

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In modern society, books are among the last things we think of that can cause us harm. The biggest injury you might receive from a book is probably a paper cut.

But in the past, some books were made with certain elements that are toxic, and they can pose a real danger to the health of those handling them.

In France’s national library, four volumes laced with arsenic were found on the shelves. Upon their discovery, they were immediately removed from public access.

The Poisonous Book Project is dedicated to identifying these types of books. Researchers participating in the project study the colors of covers to see if books contain poisons.

The 19th century is when the toxic book trade really started taking off. Bookbinders went from using expensive leather covers to affordable cloth covers dyed in eye-catching colors. However, many of these cloth covers contained heavy metal pigments.

“Heavy metal pigments were popular in art, books, wallpapers, and other domestic products in the 19th century because they were so vibrant,” Melissa Tedone, a co-leader of the project and an assistant professor of library and archives conservation at the University of Delaware, said.

“Two of the most poisonous of those pigments are emerald green, which contains arsenic, and chrome yellow, which contains lead and chromium.”

Red is also a color of concern. This brilliant pigment was created from the mineral cinnabar or mercury sulfide.

Vermilion red occasionally appeared on patterns inside book covers. There is even evidence that Neolithic artists endured mercury poisoning.

DTowersPhoto – stock.adobe.com – illustrative purposes only

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