Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/29

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SEWER-GAS.

Joseph A. Andrews, dated at Hong-Kong, May 9, 1882, giving a description of Canton, "the most characteristic of Chinese towns," in which it is said, "No closed under-ground sewers or drains exist, save a rudely constructed gutter in the center of the street, which carries off the superfluous rain," etc. The contents of latrines are removed in open buckets, generally during the day. And notwithstanding these, with many other unquestionably unsanitary conditions, in a city containing a population of one million, situated in a warm climate, "there is no typhus, rarely typhoid, and none of the other diseases, diphtheria, etc., considered the inevitable consequence of defective sanitation."

Dr. Andrews adds:

The healthiness of the foreign population of Canton is certainly in a great measure owing to the absence of water-closets in the dwelling-houses, which at home are a fruitful source of disease. Sulphureted and carbureted hydrogen gases are evidently not so injurious to health when given off in the open air as when escaping from sewers. Canton, like the whole country, is a city of bad smells, and yet the people do not seem to suffer from them, but, on the contrary, rather like them. The removal of excreta and the disposal of sewer-water is the sanitary problem of the day at home and abread. Our sewers allow the transference of gases and organic molecules from house to house and from place to place. Occasionally, by bursting, leakage, or absorption, the ground is contaminated, and the water-supply is in danger of being contaminated and poisoned; and all these dangers are greater from being concealed. In China, there is at least freedom from one of these dangers. It would certainly seem advisable that our water-closets should he in a projection from the building, with a tube passing to the outer air.

The italics are Dr. Andrews's.

Why did those in authority allow such defective sanitary arrangements? was everywhere asked after the fever at Lord Londesborough's; and this question you heard repeated, regardless of the fact that sanitary arrangements, having such results in this and other cases, were themselves the outcome of appointed sanitary administrations, regardless of the fact that the authorized system had itself been the means of introducing foul gases into houses.[1]—("The Study of Sociology," by Herbert Spencer, p. 3, and note on p. 405.)

Finally, the writer wishes it to be understood that he recognizes the agency of many other conditions than the presence of sewer-gas in dwelling-houses in causing the increased death-rate of large cities; but that, in what he has written, his chief purpose has been to place before his readers the careful observations of scientific and practical

  1. Of various testimonies to this, one of the most striking was that given by Mr. Charles Mayo, M. B., of New College, Oxford, who, having had to examine the drainage of Windsor, found that "in a previous visitation of typhoid fever the poorest and lowest part of the town had entirely escaped, while the epidemic had been very fatal in good houses. The difference was this, that while the better houses were all connected with the sewers, the poor part of the town had no drains, but made use of cesspools in the gardens. And this is by no means an isolated instance."