Conditions at Mary Tavy were good compared to other areas. Wheal Friendship was considered to offer superior conditions to its miners. Although 240 fathoms deep, it was well-ventilated and there were changing houses, where their clothes would be dried for them, and their housing was not so overcrowded as in other places.
The Miners Dry in 1963 – George Cutland
In his report to the Royal Commission on Mines in the early 1860’s, RICHARD SLEMAN, a surgeon at Tavistock, wrote:
“At Mary Tavy, in consequence of the habitations of the miners being adequate to the population, we do not get much fever. If you go to Bere Alston, where the number of houses is just the same, but where the population is 2,000 as against 500, you get more fever and more disease generally, and so at Gunnislake. I believe that the disease depends more on the habitation of the miner than anything else.” Later on in the report, discussing the miners disease – respiratory complaints, bronchitis, asthma and consumption – Richard Sleman wrote, “I draw the inference that the dwellings have a good deal to do with the matter from the fact that at the deepest mine in our neighbourhood, Wheal Friendship, the miners disease is not prevalent, and the cottages are not so filled.”
Thanks to Joan from Colorado for the information above. The information below about working with arsenic comes from The Chains Theme Website (no longer available)
“Two grains of arsenic are usually fatal, but…
….the men employed in arsenic works were not known for ill health or premature death. As a precaution, the men inserted a small wad of cotton wool up each nostril and covered their mouths with a cloth tied around the head. Exposed parts of the face, neck and hands were covered with fuller’s earth to prevent the arsenic entering the pores of the skin. It seems probable that arsenic workers built up an immunity to poisoning.