Doctor John Snow was a british doctor that lived in the Victorian Era, and is best known for discovering the cause of the famous epidemics of cholera during middle 19th century. Cholera is a food poisoning that affects the small intestine when the body consumes the bacteria Vibrio cholerae. It happens when the body digests food or water contaminated with feces. Its symptoms are vomiting, diarrhoea, rapid dehydration, and at worst, death.
Throughout the 1850s, Dr. Snow had been on a search for the cause of cholera. His hypothesis was that cholera had spread through water, which was in fact, correct. Even though he first published his hypothesis, other scientists and doctors didn’t believe him. Kathleen Tuthill, author of the article John Snow and the Broad Street Pump writes, “the popular belief of that time was that cholera was caused by breathing vapors or a “miasma in the atmosphere””.
At that time, common folk had used water pumps and wells that were shared by communities. Most people in Britain couldn’t afford to have an indoor toilet and running water. The water pumps would be used for drinking, washing dirt, and cleaning, etc. If commoners had to use shared wells to wash objects, what would happen if someone washed their chamber pot?
My answer: an outbreak of cholera, and lots of death. At the last section, I had briefly written, “the overall uncleanliness of past sanitary practices had led to the overactive contamination of germs and bacteria”. The sentence had used a lot of broad terms, and this chapter serves to further explain that terse sentence.
According to the Department of Epidemiology of UCLA, Dr. Snow had determined that the water inside sherbet -a popular, bubbly drink sold around Britain made with sherbet powder and water- had been a main cause to the outbreaks. The water, he found out, was from a nearby well that had been contaminated with Vibrio cholerae.
More proof was found when in 1854, it was reported that most homes and businesses would dump waste into the Thames river and other cesspools, the same place water would be pumped or bottled from. That was because at the time, indoor toilets were connected to the sewage system, but only those wealthy had access to proper toilets and plumbing. Cesspools would get full easily, so the excreta and other waste would be thrown into the river.
Unfortunately, by the time Dr. Snow reported his findings for a second time, tens of thousands of people had died due to cholera poisoning.
miasma : An unhealthy or unpleasant smell. cesspools : A temporary, underground storage for liquid waste and sewage.
The Demand for Toilets
Yue Wang of Time wrote about some solemn statistics they had gotten from the UN after 2013’s World Water Day. The data can almost speak for themselves. It’s estimated that 4.5 billion people out of the earth’s 7 billion people have working toilets. A drastically lesser statistic points out 2.5 billion don’t have basic sanitary needs met, and 1.1 billion of that 2.5 billion defecate out in the open. It shows that even now, billions of people outside of developing countries don’t have proper sanitation needs fulfilled.
The danger of cholera increases as the earth’s population grows larger. While other countries have been prospering in recent years, other regions have also been developing, but at an incredibly slow pace.