#2. Working With Textiles Caused Scrotum Cancer
You already probably know that working with textiles is kind of a shit job (yes, your clothes were probably made in a sweatshop), and it was only worse back in the day. When clothing manufacturing modernized back in the 1800s, companies utilized technology called spinning mules, which were 150-foot-long machines used to weave fiber into cloth. And like most machines, they had to be constantly oiled and otherwise maintained in order to prevent breakdowns, which meant someone had to go reaching into the guts of those mechanical monsters to lube 'em up.
Someone small. Like a child.
"Follow me. I'll show you to your new work area."
That's right -- the task of oiling the spinners fell onto young boys who were just entering their teenage years and who made about 30 or 40 cents for a day's work. Because the parts of the machine that had to be lubricated were at the crotch level of the workers, they sprayed oils that would get into their pants, and thanks to the piss-poor hygiene of the workers, it would then seep right into the skin. Of their balls.
The condition produced painful-looking sores on the surface of the scrotum that penetrated deeper, affecting the testicles, then the abdomen, and eventually resulting in death. Over a period of just 20 years, there were about 500 deaths from "mule spinners' cancer," but that's not too surprising, considering that the preferred treatment of the condition among doctors was to dose their poor victims with -- you guessed it -- mercury.
And not the Freddie kind.
Fortunately, mule spinners are now a thing of the past. Unfortunately, the international textile industry still doesn't give much of a shit about worker safety.
#1. If You Work With Dust, You're Working in a Ticking Time Bomb
Even though 90 percent of modern entertainment is entirely explosion-based, very few people actually know an explosion hazard when they see one. For instance, between a car's gas tank and a big pile of flour, you'd think the former would be the one most likely to go up like a bundle of TNT. You'd be wrong.
Basically, any kind of dust can cause an explosion under the right conditions, often with deadly results. Seriously, check the list -- over the years, dust from iron, fiberglass, sunflower seeds, coffee, and even freaking cocoa powder have all spontaneously gone Michael Bay. There were 281 major dust explosions from 1980 to 2005, resulting in 119 deaths and 718 injuries (and that's not taking into account dust explosions that occurred in places already regarded as hot spots for them, such as coal mines). For instance, in 2008, a cloud of freaking sugar blew up a warehouse, killing 11 people and burning more than 60 others. It took almost a week for fire crews to put out the flames.
And thus the Terminator was destroyed.
How does this happen? Well, grab a piece of paper and light it. See how quickly it burns? Now wad another piece tightly into a ball and try it again. See how much harder it is to light now? That's because the flat paper is all surface area -- fires need oxygen, and anything with lots of surface area has a better chance of burning. But tiny particles of dust are nothing but surface area. So it doesn't matter how harmless and nonflammable the substance is as a solid -- break it up into tiny bits and mix it with air, and you've got the potential to leave a goddamned crater in the ground.
What makes this even worse is the tendency for dust explosions to occur in chains, making them almost impossible to outrun. When a small explosion occurs in one part of a factory or warehouse, it loosens up other piles of dust elsewhere in the facility, triggering even bigger explosions. Here's the MythBusters igniting some powdered coffee creamer:
Just imagine that, only much, much bigger. So we guess the lesson for today is, if your job hasn't horribly murdered you yet, take a moment to appreciate that fact.
Elorm Kojo Ntumy would like to thank Georgette for her help in completing this article. Joey Clift is a sketch comedy writer and performer living in Los Angeles. He's written bits and segments for Scare Tactics on SyFy, Tosh.0 on Comedy Central, and World's Deadliest on National Geographic Wild. His sketch group Dumbshit Mountain can be found on YouTube and Facebook.
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