Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/347

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333
SANITARY RELATIONS OF THE SOIL.

change of place. And if it has properties or contains matters in one place which are not remarked in a neighboring place, they can not originate in the air itself, but must be derived from the locality from which they are communicated to it, and are then carried away in the free atmosphere, to disappear by dilution and other processes.

The same is the case with the local water. All the water that we drink on the earth falls from the sky, and is everywhere of precisely the same composition. Only when it penetrates the soil is it changed by taking up matter which is derived from the ground through which it flows, a fact that was mentioned by Hippocrates. And the local admixtures disappear from water, partly by dilution, partly by chemical changes, just as they do from the air; only in a lesser degree and more slowly, because water is present in the soil in smaller quantity and moves more sluggishly than air. This purification of the water takes place not only during its continuous retention and movement in porous soils, but also in open river-beds and streams. Brunner and Emmerich have drawn water from the Isar at numerous places between the mountains and the mouth of the river at the Danube, on the same day and have found it essentially alike everywhere, although the stream receives considerable admixtures from the towns on its banks.

What is there that does not fall into the Elbe in its course from Bohemia down to the sea? Yet filtered Elbe water is considered a pure drinking-water at Hamburg and Altoona.

The river Trent receives, before it reaches Nottingham, the sewer water of two million people dwelling on its banks, amounting to at least five hundred thousand gallons a day, yet its waters at that city are clear, sweet-smelling, and chemically free from injurious constituents.

At Paris, the collecting sewer of Clichy pours a great stream of blackish water into the gently flowing Seine below the bridge of Asnières, by which the river is so fouled that neither fish nor plants can live in it; but at Meulan, a few miles below Paris, every trace of impurity has disappeared from the stream.

When the air and water at any place are contaminated, the contamination does not proceed from any combination or decomposition of those two elements, but from qualities of the place, and they soon purify themselves again. An impurity cleaves longest and most tenaciously to the soil, which suffers no change of place, like air and water. While formerly we esteemed the hygienic value of the air first, of the water second, and of the soil third, we should now reverse the order.

The influence of the soil upon the health of those living upon it is brought out very plainly during the prevalence of epidemic disease-. That malarial diseases, like intermittent fevers, originate from the soil, is already accepted; and the more exact studies in recent times of the manner in which cholera, abdominal typhus, yellow fever, and the plague are spread, has convinced many that these diseases, also, which