Book VI.





Late President of Philadelphia Board of Health; Author of "Vital Sta-

tistics;" Member of American Health Association; Fellow of

Philadelphia College of Physicians; Member of

Philadelphia Obstetrical and Patho-

logical Societies; etc., etc.



Conditions of a Healthy Home.—The conditions necessary to insure a healthy habitation have been summarized by Dr. Parkes as follows:

1. A site dry and not malarious, and an aspect which gives light and cheerfulness.

2. A ventilation, which carries off all respiratory impurities.

3. A system of immediate and perfect sewage removal which shall render it impossible that the air shall be contaminated from excreta.

4. A pure supply and proper removal of water, by means of which perfect cleanliness of all parts of the house can be insured.

5. A construction of the house which shall insure perfect dryness of the foundations, walls and roof.

Choosing a Site.—The site for a dwelling is rarely selected from a consideration of the healthiness of the location, particularly in its relation to the conditions of the soil. Other considerations, often of an accidental character, more frequently determine the choice. And yet there is no more important subject to be taken into account in planning a house, none which demands a closer scrutiny, in view of its influence upon the health of the occupants, than the character of the soil in which its foundations are laid.

Effect of Soil on Health.—It is only within recent years that public attention has been generally directed to the important relationship existing between certain physical characteristics of the soil and health. The ground-air, ground-water and dampness have all been studied in connection with their agency in the production of certain diseases of common occurrence, and important facts have been arrived at, which are of great advantage in instituting measures for the preservation of health.

Diseases Due to Damp Soils.—Paroxysmal fevers, typhoid fever, bilious remittent fever, dysentery, diphtheria and cholera (during epidemics of that disease), have all been attributed to earth effluvia. It is a well-known fact that dampness of the soil will cause catarrhal affections, rheumatism and neuralgia.

Consumption and Damp Soils.—It has been clearly shown that dampness of the soil under houses is one of the chief factors in the production of consumption—that plague of our climate which destroys more lives than any other disease. Typhoid fever has also been supposed to be connected with changes in the water in the soil. A similar view is held with regard to dysentery, bilious remittent fevers and cholera. It is thus seen how potent are the influences of certain conditions of the soil in undermining health, and in causing disease, and therefore how important it is to use every means for protecting ourselves against these enemies of health.

The Air in the Soil.—All soils and most rock formations are more or less porous, and are capable of holding in their pores and spaces air or water, or both. When air as well as water is present, the soil is said to be moist. Only the hardest rocks are free from air. Gravel and loose sands are well known to be very porous, the latter containing often as much as half their bulk of air. The amount of air in some varieties of soft sandstones sometimes reaches 40 per cent.

Composition of Soil Air.—The composition of the air in the soil is variable, and differs widely from that of the free atmosphere. Carbonic acid in variable quantity is usually one of its constituents. The origin of this gas is supposed to be due to organic changes taking place in the soil itself. It cannot be derived from water precipitated from the atmosphere, as the amount of this gas in meteoric water is exceedingly small. Nor is it to be sought for in the ground-water as a source; but it most likely derived from the soil, and is imparted to the ground-water and ground-air simultaneously, but more freely to the latter on account of its greater absorbent capacity.

Sources of Polluted Ground-Air.—The ground-air contains more or less moisture, and is liable to be contaminated by effluvia and organic matter arising from the constituents of the soil. A frequent source of ground-air pollution in inhabited places is the impurities which soak into the soil from leaking cesspools and drains, from badly-constructed sewers, from leaky gas-mains, and from deposits of filth upon the surface of the ground.

Motion of Soil Air.—It is important to observe that the air in the soil is in continual movement. This movement is especially active in dry, porous soils. The motion of the air in the ground is caused by pressure of the atmosphere and wind against its surface; by changes in the temperature of the lower strata of the atmosphere and of the upper surface of the soil, by the rainfall, and by changes in the level of the ground-water; and to some extent by the operation of the law of diffusion of gases.

Closing of Ground-Pores.—At every rainfall, the pores of the superficial layers of the ground are closed by the inflowing water, so that the upward escape of the imprisoned air is hindered, while the rise in the ground-water exerts a pressure from the opposite direction; under the circumstances the ground-air seeks an outlet at the point of least resistance, and in many cases escapes into dwellings—the more freely, the more extended and copious the rainfall.

Currents in Ground-Air.—A current in the ground-air may be caused by local conditions; thus, a house artificially heated, being warmer inside than the external air, will cause a current of air to enter it from the ground on which it stands. Any impurities in the surrounding soil may find access to the house through this channel.

Coal-Gas in Dwellings.—Numerous instances have been recorded of the penetration of coal-gas into dwellings through the pores of the soil under the basement floors, the entrance of the gas being facilitated by the activity in the current of ground-air caused by the heated house. Ill-health, and even death, has been caused by gas escaping into houses in this manner. In the same way the air made noxious by the oozings from cesspools and broken drains, and by foul matters contained in the soil, may gain entrance through the foundation floors.


A Clean, Natural Soil.—A clean, natural soil, such as is free as possible from those organic changes or processes which cause unhealthy emanations, should be the prime object in changing the location of a dwelling. No effort should be spared in improving the healthiness of a site. This may be accomplished by keeping the soil clean through efficient drainage, abolition of cesspools and other sources of filth-impregnation, and an abundant source of water for maintaining cleanliness in all parts of the house. And further, by making the ground floors and walls, as far as possible, impermeable to air.

Dangers of Made-Ground.—"Made-ground" is to be looked upon with the greatest suspicion. Such a soil, generally composed of the refuse of a town, is necessarily very impure, and a house built upon it is liable to be unhealthy. A process of purification by oxidation and the influence of rain naturally takes place in the course of time, but the uncertainty of the result should always be determined by an examination of the ground. It is, however, best to avoid such a location altogether.

Of Porous Soils.—Porous soils, such as those composed of gravel or rubble, are generally supposed to be healthy, but the assumption is not to be taken without qualification. The great facility which they afford for the circulation of air, and, through this medium, of conducting impurities for a long distance, aided by the suction power of the house, makes it essential that such soils, in order to be healthy, should be free from noxious effluvia and deposits of animal or vegetable matter.

Danger of Porous Soils.—Dry, porous soils, otherwise unobjectionable, may be the source of malarial exhalations. The ground in inhabited places, and even about isolated dwellings, often becomes impregnated with filth from sewers, broken drains, cesspools, and refuse heaps, which undergoes decomposition and gives rise to noxious gases which are dangerous to health in proportion to the degree of concentration.

Ferments in Soil.—Such a filth-sodden soil is, moreover, a convenient nidus for the production of those morbific ferments which seem to be connected with certain palpable organisms, which are looked upon as very important agents in the production of some of the common diseases that afflict humanity.

Diseases from Soil Emanations.—Among the diseases which have been attributed to emanations from the soil may be mentioned typhoid fever—that scourge of the country as well as the city—cholera, malarial fevers, dysentery and diphtheria.

To Prevent Soil Emanations.—As it is impossible to prevent the circulation of the air in the ground, structural devices must be employed to keep the soil-exhalations from rising up into the house. This is best accomplished by covering the entire site of the house with a layer of cement, concrete, asphalt or some other impervious material, A layer of concrete at least six inches deep, well rammed and well grouted with liquid cement, and made smooth upon the surface, makes a most satisfactory barrier to the ground-air and dampness.


Ground Air.—Every house should be protected from access of ground air. The selection of a proper site has much to do with this, but not all, for since it is impossible to prevent the circulation of ground air, certain devices must be employed to keep soil exhalations from rising into the house.

The Best Device.—The best device for this is to cover the entire site with a layer of cement, concrete, asphalt or some impervious material. A layer of concrete six inches deep, well rammed and grouted with liquid cement, is a most satisfactory barrier to ground air and dampness. Asphalt over concrete also affords an excellent barrier. Such a floor has the advantage of being free from cracks and holes which harbor vermin.

Dampness of Soil Injurious.—Dampness of soil is dangerous to health. A dry, porous soil with possibilities of natural drainage will be found to be salubrious. Elevation of site is an indication of the presence of this condition. A damp condition of soil may be kept up by injudicious planting of trees and shrubs too near the house or by neglect in diverting drainage to some distant outlet and thereby preventing its absorption by the soil.

House Aspect.—In choosing a house site preference should always be given to the aspect or exposure which gives most light and cheerfulness, insures free circulation of air without being subjected to violent gusts of weather and is defended as far as possible from North and East winds; a location free from mists and fogs, sudden shiftings of temperature and malarial and other injurious influences.

Removing Soil Dampness.—For a building to be healthy the subsoil water should never be allowed to rise to the level of the foundations. To prevent this ordinary land drainage pipes should be so laid as to carry off the subsoil waters into some sewer or other outlet.

Foundations.—Foundation walls should be composed of the best materials and to prevent moisture being absorbed by the materials, thereby injuring the walls and timbers and rendering the atmosphere within unhealthy, a damp-proof course of some impervious substance like cement should be built in the wall just above the surface of the ground.

External Walls.—The walls of a house are sometimes rendered damp by exposure to continued wet weather. Various means have been employed for protecting the outside walls in exposed positions. Smooth, hard bricks, glazed bricks, slate, cement, weatherboards and tin have all been satisfactorily used for this purpose and under a variety of circumstances. Some walls are improved by a coating of good paint, but its frequent renewal makes it expensive. Hollow walls are not unfrequently constructed as a protection against dampness. Two parallel walls are constructed with a space between them three or four inches wide and joined together with bonding-ties of iron or stoneware. By this plan not only is dampness excluded but a more equable temperature is maintained in the house.

Construction of External Walls.—Whatever be the material chosen for the external walls it should be of the best quality and well put together. If stone or brick be chosen, and the latter is always preferable as being fire-proof, the laying should be done in well-tempered mortar or cement, and the wall should be of sufficient thickness to insure stability, keep out weather and protect the air of the house from the influence of sudden weather changes.

Chimneys.—To insure safety against fires the brickwork of chimneys and fire-places should be at least nine inches thick, and no wooden plugs or bricks should ever be inserted in it lest they become charred and ignite and set the house on fire. Terra-cotta linings to chimneys are a source of safety and cleanliness. So far as possible chimneys should be straight and have a smooth interior so as to facilitate the draught.

The Roof.—A good roof is an important part of a sanitary house. If not properly constructed it is a constant source of annoyance. Slate, tiles, zinc, copper, lead, tin and shingles all make substantial roofs. Tarred felt and gravel compositions are not to be recommended except for temporary structures. Metal roofs require but little slope, but the slope of slate, shingle or tile roofs should be steep. Great care should be taken in the arrangement and making of gutters, spoutings and pipes.

Floors.—These should be of well-seasoned lumber and laid so as to present a smooth, even surface, free from cracks. The plowed and grooved floor and the doweled floor have great advantages. Fire-proof floors are desirable but not adapted to ordinary dwellings. Basement floors should be of concrete.

Floor Coverings.—The inlaid flooring composed of different woods and known as parquetry is ornamental and very effective when it is intended to dispense with carpets. Carpets were formerly much more used as floor coverings than at present. They are not a sanitary covering on account of their susceptibility to collect, dust and dirt and they are difficult to remove and shake. The present fashion of abandoning the closely fitting carpets and substituting parquetry rugs and square carpets on stained or varnished floors is an important step toward effecting improvement in the sanitary condition of dwellings.

Wall Coverings.—For cottages and inexpensive dwellings no wall covering is better or healthier than lime whitewash. It may be rendered artistic by coloring, and can be renewed readily and cheaply. Paint answers as an excellent wall covering. It produces a smooth, hard, non-absorbent surface which can be washed when necessary. Paper is most used at present as a wall covering, but it is doubtful if it is a good sanitary covering, as it is absorbent of moisture and is very apt to become saturated with impurities in the heated air of rooms. Moreover, many wall papers are dangerous from the fact that some of their colors, especially the green, are derived from poisonous substances.

Woodwork.—The woodwork about the house may be stained and varnished, or oiled and polished, or painted. Natural wood, oiled and polished, or varnished, the pores first having been "filled," makes a most desirable finish, and is rapidly coming into general use. Whatever may be the choice in this respect it is important that the materials used shall, as far as possible, be impervious, and so applied as to present a smooth, even surface that will repel dust and dirt and admit of being easily cleaned. This recommendation applies with equal force to all the interior finishing of the house.

Internal Decorations and Furnishings.—The internal decoration and fittings or furnishing of the house may exert no inconsiderable influence on health, and it is therefore important that they conform, as far as possible, to the principles of sanitation, so as to conduce to the health as well as the comfort of the occupants. It is clearly evident that all furniture, which, by its excessive decoration or peculiar construction, collects and conceals dust and dirt that cannot be easily detected and removed; all heavy drapery, so commonly hung in profusion about living and sleeping apartments, which cannot be cleaned with facility and which excludes light and air; all over-ornamentation of ceilings and cornices by elaborate mouldings which defy all attempts at cleansing; the so-called artistic furniture loaded down with ornaments of china and glass, and "what-not," which furnish so many hiding places for the ever-present dust; all these are, to a great extent, objectionable and unhealthy.

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