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PRACTICAL SANITATION.

2

OHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTORY.

BEFORE discussing the details of sanitary work, time will not be wasted if we take a brief glance at the past history of sanitary science or Hygiene.

According to the late Prof. Parkes, hygiene is a science which aims at rendering growth more perfect, decay less rapid, life more vigorous, and death more remote. Our conditions of life are unnatural. Commerce brings us together into densely populated areas, too small to admit of cleanly surroundings; by reason of this, we breathe unwholesome air, and drink contaminated water; our food, either from our poverty or over indulgence, is not fitted for our requirements ; vice and drink play their parts in the production of disease; and all these combined have resulted in the transmission of enfeebled constitutions less able to withstand the hardships to which they are exposed.

To correct the defects of our surroundings and habits is the aim of hygiene, and although it may not be possible, owing to the necessities of the times in which we live, to arrive at an ideal state of existence, much may be done, as indeed much has been done, towards that end, and, in time, the influence of heredity, which, through our own faults, has hitherto told in a deleterious direction, will act as an all-powerful ally in improving the stamina of the race.

In recent years more especially, the attention of eminent scientists has been devoted to the study of hygiene in its various branches. Our knowledge regarding the nature of contagion, for example, kua thus advanced by leaps and bounds, and this has led to greater precision in the measures adopted to combat it. Where formerly we were groping in the dark and guessing at conclusions, we are now able to work on more or less definite lines. Again, improved methods of compiling and studying vital statistics, combined with a better knowledge of disease generally, have been instrumental in the advancement of sanitary legislation ; yet, notwithstanding the evidence in favour of this, there are people still to be found who ask " what good has all this done;" it may be well, therefore, to review the past, and see what light history can throw upon the question. Most people are aware that to filth, in the broad sense of the term, must be attributed the pestilence and death of the dark ages, when whole armies were destroyed, when cities were depopulated, when gaols were death holes, and when the general annual death-rate exceeded 80 per 1,000.

In 1844, the Health of Towns Commission, which had been appointed mainly owing to the energy and work of Mr. Chadwick, Dr. Farr, and others, presented their report, and four years later, owing to a cholera scare, the Public Health Act of 1848 was passed.

By this Act, power was given to local authorities to borrow money for sanitary purposes, but in it, as in many of the Acts that followed, the word may too often took the place of shall; in fact, its adoption was optional in place of being compulsory. In this instance it was perhaps a fortunate circumstance that it was 80, for, in those days, architects and engineers did not know their work, and in place of the surface channels then generally to be found, badly constructed and ill ventilated sewers were laid down, which were directly connected by untrapped and unventilated drains with the houses. Much of this work is to be found at the present time, and, had we but a portion of the money that was thus originally misspent, as well as what has since been expended in correcting these mistakes, we might well afford to place every district in the Kingdom in thorough sanitary order. No real progress was made until Urban and Rura) Authorities were established by the Public Health Act of 1872

The Privy Council still remained the central Authority, but in 1875 an improved Act was passed—the last Public Health Act—by which the control of sanitary affairs was transferred to the Local Government Board.

It is sometimes said that figures may be made to prove anything, but the following plain statement tells an unmistakable tale, to whatever causes the improvement may be attributed :

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This table speaks for itself. Starting with an average deathrate, per 1,000 of the population, of 22.6 for the ten years ending 1871, it falls to 21.8 for the four years subsequent to the passing of the 1872 Act, to 20.8 for the five years period following the passing of the 1875 Act, and so on, step by step, until the figure 16.0 is recorded for the quinquennial period ending 1905. This is the picture when viewed from the broad standpoint of general results, but let us go a step farther and see whether, and to what extent, we can particularise as regards cause and effect. In the year 1866, Dr. Buchanan conducted an enquiry, with a view to discovering whether any benefit to health had followed the carrying out of sanitary works in certain districts. The places selected were those in which the improvements had been Iongest established, and this was the only consideration that influenced the selection. In the following table the results are given as regards the general mortality, and as regards the mortality from typhoid fever and phthisis, diseases that are wellknown to be influenced by sanitary surroundings.

It is not always possible in sanitary work to demonstrate that good results follow each individual act of improvement, and the public are slow to recognise the broad fact that they derive a very substantial return for the money expended in this direction ; yet from the above tables there can be no doubt that the deathrate has steadily decreased in recent years; and when we consider that for each life saved there is also a saving of many

weeks of sickness to others, the financial gain to the community must be enormous.

To quote Dr. Parkes :-" It has been proved, over and over

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