Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 84.djvu/288

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
288
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE AUTOMOBILE AND THE PUBLIC HEALTH
P. G. HEINEMANN, Ph.D.
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

SANITARY science has done so much towards the improvement of public welfare that it may not be surprising to credit the automobile with having contributed to produce some results. The question may be asked in what directions the public health is affected by the constantly increasing use of automobiles and autotrucks. A few considerations will make it apparent that horseless vehicles may bring about far-reaching betterment in human conditions. The enormous increase in the use of automobiles and autotrucks is bound to change some aspects of city life. There are possibly three directions in which the public health may be benefited, namely: (1) the improvement of streets and roads, resulting in reducing the amount of dust in the air, (2) the disappearance of the horse and horse stables from the neighborhood of human habitations and the consequent reduction of flies and (3) the avoidance of direct infections of stablemen and veterinarians, who come in contact with horses.

There are several reasons for the statement that improved street and road pavements will benefit the public health. Bough pavements offer opportunities for the accumulation of filth and dust. The stones, usually thought necessary for horses to get a good foothold, leave holes and crevices, where dust settles and the washings of streets from rain, snow or the sprinkling cart remain until dried out. The dry material is then dispersed by winds or passing vehicles and serves as means for carrying germs. Modern improved roads, with hard surfaces and sprinkled with oil instead of water, will prevent the rising of dust in large measure; sweeping of streets will become superfluous and the atmosphere will be purer and harbor relatively few microorganisms.

One of the most serious disturbances to efficiency of sewerage systems is the accumulation of dust, detritus and street sweepings, especially after rain storms. It is obvious that this trouble may be largely reduced through the improvement in pavements, which is advocated most enthusiastically by those interested in automobiles. Societies for road improvement are in existence to-day and the number is rapidly increasing. In some states of the union a goodly number of magnificent state roads has been built and although the movement is still in its infancy, there can be little doubt of the final outcome in regard to comfort and health resulting from the construction of good roads.