Trivia

Hard

Exposure To What Made Hat Makers In The 19th Century “Mad Hatters”?

Lead
Mercury
Copper Sulfate
Arsenic

Answer: Mercury

In modern culture the closest anyone comes to a “mad hatter” is the endearingly eccentric character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the various derivative works. The origin of the phrase “mad as a hatter” was based on the unfortunate fate of early hat makers, however, and for both the hatters and their families “mad hatter” syndrome was all too real.

The majority of hats in the 19th century were made out of felt, and the majority of felt was (from the 17th century well into the mid-20th century) treated and processed using mercuric nitrate. As a result, hatters were exposed to extremely high doses of mercury vapor over the course of their career and nearly all hatters developed some symptoms of mercury poisoning as a result of their chronic occupational exposure.

The most common symptom was tremors and shaking of the hands. It was so common, in fact, that it was called “hatter’s shakes” or “Danbury shakes” (named such after the hat-making industry in Danbury, Connecticut).

When the term “mad as a hatter” came into play, however, was when the exposure was more acute and prolonged and the hatter not only had the shakes, but was experiencing other neurotoxic side effects like extreme shyness, nervousness, irritability, and insomnia. The medical name for this neurological disorder, almost always but not exclusively caused by mercury poisoning, is “Erethism”.

Increased understanding of mercury toxicity as well as reform of labor laws and working conditions in the 20th century led to a radical reduction in global levels of mercury exposure as both the hat making industry and other industries that used mercury either moved away from use of the highly toxic chemical or adopted strict handling and safety standards.

Trivia

Hard

Long Before The World Wide Web French Citizens Enjoyed Online Banking And More Courtesy Of?

Trivia

Very Hard

The Phrase “Elementary, My Dear Watson” Was Not From A Sherlock Holmes Book, But From A?

Trivia

Hard

Which Band Made More Money From Guitar Hero Than Any Of Their Albums?

Trivia

Very Hard

Only Two Infectious Diseases Have Been Declared Eradicated: Smallpox and?

Trivia

Hard

Which Of These Natural Disasters Has The Potential To Change The Length Of The Day?

Trivia

Hard

Opera Once Released An Edition Of Their Browser That Made MSN.com Appear Written By?

Trivia

Easy

Which Of These Animals Are Able To Effectively “Pause” Their Pregnancies?

Trivia

Hard

Aztec Kings Wore Cloaks Made From What Unusual Material?

Trivia

Hard

Hong Kong Cinema Was Inadvertently Popularized In The West By?

Trivia

Hard

Which Of These Early Video Games Had A Cast Of Forty Actors?