Tag Archives: sanitation history

Contaminated water may have killed 3 U.S. Presidents

How the White House might have killed these three presidents in the 1840s | Source: The Raw Story, April 28 2016 |

President William Henry Harrison gave the longest inaugural address in history, speaking outside in a cold Washington, D.C. snowstorm for an hour and 45 minutes. He died not long after from what people say was pneumonia brought on by the cold he caught while giving the address.


Presidents Harrison, Taylor and Polk (Photo: Wikipedia)

Now some researchers at the National Institute of Health say that Harrison may not have died from pneumonia after all. In fact, Harrison along with Presidents James Polk and Zachary Taylor all may have died unexpectedly from typhoid in the 1840s due to contaminated water in the White House.

Both Harrison and Taylor died in office and Polk died not long after leaving office. According to the research, Harrison’s own doctor disputed the pneumonia diagnosis in his well-documented medical journals Business News Insider outlined in a video.

Read the complete article.

Despite Sanitation Tech, Parasites Spread During Roman Empire

Despite Sanitation Tech, Parasites Spread During Roman EmpireR&D Magazine, Jan 8 2016.

As the Roman Empire spread its tendrils across the surrounding geographic landscape, it disseminated ideas regarding literature, engineering, culture, cuisine, religion, and even hygiene. In fact, the Romans are credited with introducing sanitation technology to Europe roughly 2,000 years ago.


This is a photograph of Roman latrines from Lepcis Magna in Libya. Source: Craig Taylor

But Romanization can also be defined by its spread of parasites.

New research from Univ. of Cambridge’s Piers Mitchell, a member of the Archaeology and Anthropology Dept., has revealed that despite the Roman’s penchant for cleanliness, intestinal parasites and dysentery persisted and even increased following the Iron Age.

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Sanitation promotion history: US New Deal posters

Posted created in 1940 by John Buczak for the US Federal Art Project. Collection Library of Congress

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the US Government launched a series of economic programmes collectively known as the New Deal. The largest  of these programmes, run by WPA, the Works Progress Administration (renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration), employed millions of unemployed people to carry out public works projects. Most famous was the WPA Federal Art Project (FAP) that employed musicians, artists, writers, actors and directors in large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects.

The FAP created over 200,000 separate works including 2,000 posters. Shown  here are several posters promoting sanitation and hygiene from the WPA poster collection of the Library of Congress.

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Disney’s 1940s sanitation and hygiene promotion films

Still from Disney short film “Cleanliness Brings Health”

In the 1940s, the Walt Disney Studios produced a series of educational films on sanitation and hygiene promotion for developing countries. The films, in the Health for the Americas series, were aimed at Latin America. They were commissioned by the now defunct Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA), which was later renamed Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA).

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New toilet museum opens in Wiesbaden, Germany

Photo: Harlekin Klooseum, Wiesbaden

“Harlekin’s Klooseum – Museum of Modern Arsch” opened it doors on 3 April 2011 in the German city of Wiesbaden. The focus of the exhibition is the cultural history of the toilet and the human body.

The Klooseum (“Looseum”) is the brainchild of collector Michael Berger (69) who explained “this is my present to humanity. I am mad, but I love loos.”

Lots of Neo-Dada toilet humour. “Esst mehr Scheiße – Millionen Fliegen können nicht irren”.

Entry: € 4,99, recommended for children of 10 years and older
Open: every Sunday from 03 April 2011 from 11:11 – 17:17 until 28 August 2011
Address: Wandersmannstrasse 2b, D-65205 Wiesbaden, Germany

See photogallery on T-online

Web site (in German): www.klooseum.de

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CDC – History and Health Benefits of Handwashing

Upcoming Exhibition at CDC’s Global Health Odyssey Museum Features Multi-Media Art of Handwashing

ATLANTA, Feb. 24, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — A gift from Georgia-Pacific Professional will help the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlight the health benefits of proper handwashing through a multi-media art exhibition called Watching Hands: Artists Respond to Keeping Well. The exhibition is scheduled to open in September 2011 at the Global Health Odyssey Museum on the campus of CDC’s headquarters in Atlanta.

The Watching Hands exhibit is supported through a contribution to the CDC Foundation and will showcase the importance of effective hand hygiene practices through various creative media including vinyl installation, graphic design, video projection, drawing, painting and sculpture. Handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness in all settings—from homes and workplaces to child care facilities and hospitals.

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New Google tool sheds light on cultural history of sanitation

Sanitation has long been considered a taboo topic, but was this always the case and can we see cultural trends in interest for this topic? A new “culturomics” tool developed by Google reveals that first decades of the 20th century may have been the “golden age” of sanitation.

A team from Harvard University has teamed up with Google to crack the spines of 5,195,769 digitized books that span five centuries of the printed word with the hopes of giving the humanities a more quantitative research tool.

The Google Books Ngram Viewer, launched online December 16 and described in a paper in Science [1], allows Web users to query their respective areas of interest based on n-grams (a method of modeling sequences in natural language).

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Robert Crane, biochemist who created oral rehydration therapy (ORT), dies

Dr. Robert Crane in 2009

Dr. Robert Kellogg Crane, a biochemist whose discoveries about how salt and sugar are absorbed by the body led to the development of oral rehydration therapy (ORT), has died on 31 October 2010 at the age of 90.

ORT is used to treat people, especially children, with diarrhoea and cholera and has been credited with saving millions of lives, particularly in developing countries.

Dr. Crane was researching metabolism at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis when he discovered that sodium and glucose are most efficiently absorbed in the small intestine when mixed. The breakthrough was described in 1978 as “potentially the most important medical advance this century” by The Lancet.

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A brief history of sanitation in New York City

Talking trash during the dog days: A brief history of sanitation in New York City

Without modern sanitation, life would be nightmarish—human and animal wastes would fester on the streets along with garbage and food scraps, producing a stench so foul that you’d want to keep your windows closed even in the sweltering heat of summer (for the moment, envision lacking the luxury of air conditioning). The offensive odors and accumulating muck would be the least of your worries, however—preventable diseases such as cholera and yellow fever would be rampant, your life expectancy would be extremely short, and infant mortality rates would be staggeringly high.

This is what life was like for many of the previous inhabitants of what is now New York City, from the arrival of the Dutch in the 1600s until the establishment of an official Department of Street Cleaning in the late 19th century.

Robin Nagle, professor of anthropology at New York University, chronicled this fascinating history of sanitation and public health in an illustrated lecture July 26 at N.Y.U.’s School of Medicine. Nagle’s talk, “How Street Cleaners Saved the City: Garbage, Government, and Public Health in New York,” was dotted with vivid descriptions of how the burgeoning sanitation system was influenced by underhanded dealings, two wars, repeated outbreaks of communicable disease, devastating fires and water crises.

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India – A visit to the International Toilet Museum

indiaDELHI, India—Ah, the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets! How’s that for a place to take the wife and kids on a Sunday afternoon?

It’s hard not to smirk when this museum’s name is first mentioned. It sounds like a roadside attraction, something you find just a ways down the road from the World’s Oldest Rug (St. Augustine, Fla.) and the World’s Largest Ball of Twine (Cawker City, Kan.).

But when you visit the museum, the smirk evaporates. It’s not the museum itself—a rather small collection of lavatory oddities that includes a replica of Louis XIV’s throne with a hidden commode that allowed the monarch to evacuate his bowels while giving audience—that changes a visitor’s mind. Instead, it’s the trip to the museum through the streets of Delhi, India. There, where 18 percent of the population still defecates openly and where 20 percent of children who die under the age of five do so from water-borne diseases, the true purpose of the museum becomes evident: It’s a way to lure in visitors and introduce them to the Sulabh International Social Service Organization and its Sulabh Sanitation Movement.

Sulabh, which translates to “simple” in Hindi, is the brainchild of Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, a Brahmin snoot-cum-egalitarian who has transformed the lives of millions of impoverished people across South Asia with the introduction of low-cost composting latrines. Because they require little or no water to operate, the latrines solve the problem faced by poor cities and rural areas alike: no sewage system.

Sulabh has also rescued and retrained more than 120,000 “scavengers,” members of the low-ranking Dalit caste in Indian society whose lifelong job is to empty household latrines, carrying the contents away in buckets on their heads. The practice is now illegal but continues in many rural areas. Sulabh’s organization offers scavenger families vocational training and formal education.

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