Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/13

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SEWER-GAS.

denying that there is any such thing as sewer-gas "having a peculiar and definite composition." This is undoubtedly true, and it is probable that no intelligent man or educated physician ever thought otherwise.

"What has been called 'sewer-gas' is composed of air, vapor, and gases in constantly varying proportions, together with living germs—vegetable and animal—and minute particles of putrescent matter. In short, it is composed of whatever is sufficiently volatile or buoyant to float in the atmosphere, and in consequence of which buoyancy it is permitted to escape through the various sewer-outlets. The term is, in this sense, well understood; and it is, moreover, just as correct as would be the terms sewer-vapor, or sewer-air, which some have chosen to substitute for it.

It is proper here to add that the offensiveness of odors is no test of their insalubrity, but that the most fatal germs are often conveyed in an atmosphere which is odorless. The absence of unpleasant odors, therefore, furnishes no proof that the air does not contain sewer emanations.

Have we succeeded hitherto in excluding sewer-gases from our houses?

Only those gentlemen who profess to have inquired carefully into this matter, and whose names will be accepted as authority, will be permitted to answer this question.

Colonel George B. Waring, Jr., sanitary engineer, writing for the "Herald," and also the "Mail and Express," under date of April 2, 1882, says: "Few, I imagine, would question the substantial soundness of Dr. Hamilton's position on the question of heating, lighting, and ventilation, and no one probably at all familiar with the subject will question what he says about the effect of the plumbing work of city houses on the life and health of their occupants. From tenement house to palace they are very often, almost universally, disgracefully and dangerously bad. . . . It is quite true that such plumbing work as is to be found in nine out of every ten houses, even in Fifth Avenue, is unsafe, and ought not to be allowed to remain within the same four walls with a family of human beings."

Mr. Charles F. Wingate, sanitary engineer, in his paper read before the Kings County Medical Society, April, 1882, says: "Any one having opportunities for seeing the sanitary defects in the vast majority of city houses, whether occupied by millionaires or mechanics, and whether situated on Murray Hill or Avenue B, can feel little surprise at the statistics of increasing mortality in New York. The constant demand for the doctor's services in so many houses in their normally bad state, and the fact that his services are no longer demanded when they have been put in sanitary condition, tells its own lesson."

Mr. Wingate also intimates to the people of Brooklyn that their houses are in no better condition.