Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 64.djvu/236

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
232
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
IMMIGRATION AND THE PUBLIC HEALTH.
By Dr. ALLAN MCLAUGHLIN,
U. S. PUBLIC HEALTH AND MARINE HOSPITAL SERVICE.

THE popular belief that immigration constitutes a menace to the public health is not without foundation. Newspapers and magazines contain graphic accounts of the squalor and insanitary conditions of the tenement districts of our great cities. Recent newspaper reports and comments upon the remarkable spread of trachoma in the public schools of New York and other great cities add to the popular feeling of distrust, and the opinion is gaining ground everywhere that more stringent means must be devised for keeping out the undesirable class of immigrants which augments the frightfully overcrowded population of the tenement district of New York and other large cities.

In the consideration of danger to the public health from immigration, three factors must be taken into account: (1) The physique of the immigrant; (2) his destination, and (3) the presence or absence of communicable disease.

The first mentioned, the physique of the immigrant, is by far the most important factor. Good physique was much more general among immigrants a quarter of a century ago than among the immigrants of to-day. The bulk of the immigrants previous to 1880 came from the sturdy races of northern and western Europe, and, not only was good physique the rule, but loathsome, communicable or contagious disease was extremely rare. The immigration from Ireland, Germany and the Scandinavian countries is insignificant to-day compared with the thousands of Slavs, Italians, Hebrews and other immigrants from southern or eastern Europe, which now crowd American-bound vessels and pour through the ports of this country in an ever-increasing stream.

With the change in the racial character of immigration, most marked in the past decade, a pronounced deterioration in the general physique of the immigrants, and a much higher per cent, of loathsome and dangerous disease is noticeable. Thousands of immigrants of poor physique are recorded as such by the medical inspectors at Ellis Island, and a card to this effect sent to the registry clerk or immigrant inspector with the immigrant, but this mere note of physical defect carries little significance under the present law, and the vast majority of them are admitted by the immigration authorities, because it does not appear that the physical defect noted will make the