Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/303

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293
THE CHEMIST IN CONSERVATION

our gas-works are totally inadequate to the demand. These are but typical wastes.

Our improvidence is shown in other fields. Our average mortality is high, exceptionally so among infants. Take an example near home. In the month of July last 245 infants under one year of age died in the state of Iowa, 109 of cholera infantum. Last August there were in the same state 1,785 deaths: of these 472 (more than one fourth) were nnder 5 years of age; of these 350 (about one fifth of the total) were under one year. Of the infants 291 died of cholera infantum, a disease difficult to cure but nevertheless recognized by sanitarians as entirely preventable. Illness is frequent in the whole country. According to the Report of the Committee of One Hundred on National Vitality, three million people in the United States are at all times seriously ill, half a million of tuberculosis. Drugs and stimulants are used excessively; food, improper in quantity, or in the kind and proportions of its nutrients, is often the rule, thus lowering human vitality and decreasing efficiency.

The food and water that we eat and drink, the atmosphere that we breathe, are deteriorating. The mere mention of food adulterations will suffice. Our industrial waste products are poured into our streams; our sewage and garbage, for the most part, directly or indirectly, share the same fate. The quality of our inland waters is therefore steadily deteriorating. We can depend less and less upon our rivers, springs and shallow wells for domestic and city water supplies. Even the industries where a pure or an impure water represents the difference between a high grade and an unsatisfactory product, are seriously hampered by being limited to a badly polluted water for steam making and other purposes. Many of our fresh-water fishes have become locally exterminated, particularly in the eastern manufacturing sections, and many a smiling river, and pleasant stream, have become converted into mere open sewers which carry away, more or less efficiently, unidentifiable contaminations.

The pollution of the atmosphere has increased with civilization. Not only are the gases from our heating and power plants blown into the air with half-consumed matters in the shape of soot and cinders, but from chemical industries acid gases and other noxious products are allowed to escape and to drift whither they will. The sulphur dioxide from the smelters destroys vegetation, including forests, for miles around. When these are gone denudation commences and rapidly progresses until the region appears a veritable desert. Arsenious oxide is usually found in such gases, and not only aids in the destruction of the vegetable world, but, over great areas, leaves the marks of acute or chronic poisoning upon the animals that graze within the district and upon human beings that breathe the air. In comparison with these