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Black Men Working in the 1940s

Black Men Working in the 1940s

This April 1941 historical photograph was provided by the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). It depicted a number of African-American workers loading nitrate of soda into cotton bags. Note that the men were equipped with inadequate respiratory protection. One worker in the background was wearing a simple dust mask. The worker in the center was using a bandana as protection, while the others were completely unprotected. In the 1940s and 1950s, the Industrial Hygiene Division (IHD) investigated hazards associated with activities such as metal grinding. The potential worker health problems associated with nitrate of soda dust include both inhalational respiratory pathology, and dermatitic, or skin irritation upon contact. Prolonged exposure may cause anemia, weakness, general depression, headache, mental impairment, methemoglobinemia, and nephritis.

keywords: black and white, nitrate of soda, no protection, respiratory problems, African American workers, 1940s, 1950s, 9463