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When visiting a touring exhibit of Vatican museum treasures, my mother pointed at a garment with very fine embroidery. She told me that the artists who made such garments could only make one in their entire life, because working on something so minutely detailed caused blindness.

This struck me as odd, but recently I rediscovered this claim in an article about rotoscoping films:

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen those incredibly detailed Chinese tapestries that they made in the monasteries generations ago. They finally stopped making them because the artisans would go blind

Is there any truth to this? I couldn't find any articles online by doing some basic searches for textile or tapestry and blindness. I also find it hard to believe that this kind of work would actually make someone blind.

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    Could have been because of a toxic substance used during the manufacturing process. – Bigbio2002 Apr 29 '14 at 17:33
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    Seems like the question is whether eye strain can lead to blindness. – JaseMachine May 2 '14 at 20:21
  • possible duplicate of Is it harmful to your eyes to read in dim light?. It also resembles my recent question that was closed for similar reasons. – Ken Y-N Aug 29 '14 at 0:21
  • It could also be a coincidence based on the fact that near-vision often deteriorates with age and, before the arrival of cheap spectacles, this was often a limiting factor in worker productivity for certain tasks. – matt_black Aug 29 '14 at 14:06
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This is a problem that is being addressed in the rug industry. Gradual blindness is a challenge, however it is more related to the general working conditions (nutrition, dim light, etc.). This research from McGill University documents the health hazards of carpet-weaving (for children) in Pakistan and indicates that blindness has indeed been a consequence.

Research has shown that the knotting of carpets is hazardous to the health of workers, particularly to children as they are more prone to develop skeletal problems due to poor posture, as well as impaired vision and blindness. Head-ache, blurring of vision, backache, abdominal pain, limb pains, and respiratory tract infections have been found to be more prevalent in carpet-weaving children.

In other words, in the right working environment, diminished sight is not inevitable (even if historically it has been commonplace).

  • Strange, because in a different answer we found that eye strain does not have any permanent effect. – Sklivvz Aug 28 '14 at 21:30
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    I think the word of a peer-reviewed paper has more weight than a random unsourced blog post, so I don't think RugRag is a good source. – Ken Y-N Aug 29 '14 at 2:43
  • @KenY-N - Post edited to focus on peer-reviewed research. Conclusions remain the same. – MMPA Aug 29 '14 at 10:38

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