Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/16

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when it is so abundantly supplied by the experience of every medical man, and, indeed, of almost every intelligent citizen? The history of civilized nations for the last few years is replete with startling examples of valuable lives sacrificed in this manner. From sewer-gas the Prince of Wales nearly lost his life in one of the princely houses of England, and the Duchess of Connaught had to be removed from Bagehot to escape death from the same cause, after about two hundred thousand dollars had been expended to put the house in order on the occasion of her confinement. We have still fresh in our memories the terrible sewer-gas disaster at the National Hotel in Washington, the fatal outbreak at the Philadelphia Centennial Fair-Grounds, the Springfield boarding-school, and Princeton; not to mention many equally signal examples in our own city, in Brooklyn, and in many parts of the United States, in all of which not a doubt could exist as to the cause of sickness and death.

What special forms of sickness or of disease may be caused or conveyed by sewer-gas?

Asphyxia, sudden death, or death occurring in a few hours after exposure. Examples of this variety or degree of septic infection are rare, and have seldom occurred, except when persons have entered the sewers. Now and then, however, ever since sewers were first constructed, occasional reports of such cases have been made through medical journals or other channels.

A general malaise, or dyscrasy, of an undefined character, but indicated by a loss of appetite and of strength, by diarrhœa, nervous prostration, or by a general impairment of health, which conditions are known to predispose to the occurrence of other diseases, and especially to the diseases of infancy and childhood, including diphtheria and scarlatina. It is known, also, as stated by Dr. Barker in the quotation already made, that these conditions of the general system, caused by the long-continued inhalation of sewer-gas, complicate the contagious or zymotic diseases of infancy, from whatever source they have been derived, and render them more intense and fatal.

To be more explicit, sewer-gas fertilizes the human soil, and renders it more capable of receiving and developing the germs of specific diseases.

Infants and children are in general constitutionally better prepared for the reception and development of these germs, excepting, perhaps, the typhoid, than adults.

It has been asked why, if these gases are so poisonous, plumbers do not suffer. The answer is, that they do suffer frequently, and that they would much more often were they not, when exposed, in most cases in the full vigor of adult life and of health. Muhlenberg says that "if the vitality of a rabbit is lowered by the administration of phosphorus, micrococci, which under other circumstances do no harm, increase so rapidly as to be fatal."