Peak Pollution During the Industrial Revolution

More than a hundred years earlier, a new type of building appeared in the countryside of the English County of Derbyshire. The factory at Cromford, built in 1771, produced cotton yarn not by the power of the weavers sitting at the spinning wheel, but by the power of the water flowing from the river Derwent. With the help of a number of gears and blocks (the design helped to develop a watchmaker), this factory could perform the work of hundreds of labourers. Coal-fired engines had been around for decades by then, but the real industrial revolution began when coal began to power factories of this kind.

Towns and cities have been dirty places for centuries. The contents of chamber pots and other waste were often thrown into the street. Wandering swarms of pigs served as edible waste recycling facilities (a practice Dating back to the Neolithic Levant). However, under the influence of rapid urbanization during the industrial revolution, as well as rapid population growth during the same period, the legendary pollution of cities became even more intense. “The industrial system, the main creative force of the nineteenth century, produced the most degraded urban environment the world has ever seen, as even the quarters of the ruling classes were polluted and overpopulated,” writes historian Lewis Mumford.

In 1801, London had about 100,000 inhabitants — it was the only city with such a large population in great Britain. Five years later, London’s population increased to 2.5 million, and ten more English cities crossed the 100,000 mark. In 1701 the population of England was 5.06 million. A century later, its population had risen to 8.66 million. In 1851, there were 16.74 million Britons. At the same time, overcrowding had a negative impact on people’s health.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, life expectancy in England and Wales was 41 years. However, in large cities it was significantly lower: 36 years in London in the 1840s and only 26 years in Liverpool and Manchester. This frightening statistic was attributed to the extremely high infant mortality rate. In many towns and cities, nearly half the children died before the age of five from typhoid, dysentery, and later cholera. Cities survived only due to the constant influx of migrants from the countryside.

Large accumulation of people and dirt created conditions for increasing virulence of old parasites. The results of modern research suggest that Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) we brought with us from Africa and that it did not pass to us, as long thought, from cows. However, a wave of tuberculosis swept Europe at the beginning of the industrial revolution. The “white plague” accounted for the death of every fifth representative of the urban working class. Tuberculosis has not spared the wealthier people. The poet John Keats, the novelists Anna and Emily Bronte, and the daughter of Charles Darwin are among the many famous victims of pulmonary tuberculosis. Pale, ethereal form gave TB a welcome mystery. The poet Lord Byron once remarked: “I should like to die of consumption. All the ladies would say, ” Look at poor Byron! How beautifully he dies!”»

The British responded to such a high infectious load by reducing growth. At the end of the eighteenth century the average growth of recruits in the army increased, but at the beginning of the nineteenth century it again became less [70]. Rural men remained taller than urban men, while Scots and northerners were taller than Londoners and men from the other urbanised South-East of the country (the reverse is true today). The British regained their lost growth in the late nineteenth century, after sanitary reforms, but first they had to solve the problem of the huge amount of sewage that their cities produced.

In the past, so-called” scavengers “or” excrement collectors ” sold excrement from cesspools to farmers around London. During the wars with Spain in the XVII century, nitrogen, which was extracted from household waste and excrement, was used in the production of gunpowder. However, as London grew and farms moved to remote areas, this recycling practice became ineffective. In addition, paradoxically, the new type of toilet further aggravated the situation. Instead of storing excrement in a cesspool (the old way), the new “water closets” (“flush latrines”) flushed it away with a jet of water. However, the city did not have the necessary equipment for wastewater treatment, so sewage fell directly into its main waterway.

“Now the Thames has become a great cesspool, instead of every man having his own pit,” lamented an eyewitness in 1840. Worst of all, this river was tidal. Depending on the position of the moon there were tides, and sometimes the water in the river just stood still. London bathed again and again in its own filth.

This situation reached a critical point in July 1858, when an event later called the “great stench of London”occurred. The Thames has become so putrid (in the words of sanitary reform author Michael Faraday, it has become a “fermenting gutter”) that it is impossible to convene a Parliament in a newly renovated building on the river Bank.

“The stench of great power has forced Parliament to legislate on the intolerable situation in London… we are heartily glad of it,” the Times wrote in June 1858. Finally, the ruling classes began to address what today we would call a health disaster. They were motivated not by altruism but by a well-founded concern that the industrial revolution would come to naught, drowning in its own filth. After all, how can workers work if they get sick and die?

Started serious health reform. London hired the engineer Joseph Bazalgette for designing sewage system, which would transfer the city’s waste water to a safe distance downstream. Three decades later, the Thames was a very different waterway: according to historian Stephen holiday, it became “the cleanest urban river in the world, which is still”.

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