Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/92

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84
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
NEEDED IMPROVEMENTS IN THEATER SANITATION.
By WILLIAM PAUL GERHARD, C. E.,
CONSULTING ENGINEER FOR SANITARY WORKS.

BUILDINGS for the representation of theatrical plays must fulfill three conditions: they must be (1) comfortable, (2) safe, and (3) healthful. The last requirement, of healthfulness, embraces the following conditions: plenty of pure air, freedom from draughts, moderate warming in winter, suitable cooling in summer, freedom at all times from dust, bad odors, and disease germs. In addition to the requirements for the theater audience, due regard should be paid to the comfort, healthfulness, and safety of the performers, stage hands, and mechanics, who are required to spend more hours in the stage part of the building than the playgoers.

It is no exaggeration to state that in the majority of theater buildings disgracefully unsanitary conditions prevail. In the older existing buildings especially sanitation and ventilation are sadly neglected. The air of many theaters during a performance becomes overheated and stuffy, pre-eminently so in the case of theaters where illumination is effected by means of gaslights. At the end of a long performance the air is often almost unbearably foul, causing headache, nausea, and dizziness.

In ill-ventilated theaters a chilly air often blows into the auditorium from the stage when the curtain is raised. This air movement is the cause of colds to many persons in the audience, and it is otherwise objectionable, for it carries with it noxious odors from the stage or under stage, and in gas-lighted theaters this air is laden with products of combustion from the footlights and other means of stage illumination.

Attempts at ventilation are made by utilizing the heat due to the numerous flames of the central chandelier over the auditorium, to create an ascending draught, and thereby cause a removal of the contaminated air, but seldom is provision made for the introduction of fresh air from outdoors, hence the scheme of ventilation results in failure. In other buildings, openings for the introduction of pure air are provided under the seats or in the floor, but are often found stuffed up with paper because the audience suffered from draughts. The fear of draughts in a theater also leads to the closing of the few possibly available outside windows and doors. The plan of a theater building renders it almost impossible to provide outside windows, therefore "air flushing" during the day can not be practiced. In the case of the older theaters, which are