chapter  7
30 Pages

Bringing on the New Sanitary Revolution

Looking back on the 19th-century public health revolution, a number oflandmark moments come into view. First up is Edwin Chadwick’s 1842Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain; then the Public Health Act of 1848; following this, John Snow’s 1854 insistence on the closure of the Broad Street pump to prevent the spread of cholera; and finally the 1858 ‘Great Stink’ off the Thames that inspired London’s retching MPs to legislate reform. Whichever is taken as the critical starting-point of the public health revolution, it is salutary to note that it took between 50 and 65 years of legal, administrative, financial, technological and promotional combat with ‘excrementitious effluvia’ to sanitize the people of Britain and make a real impact on their life expectancy and standard of health. If we date the contemporary international sanitary revolution from the start of the Water and Sanitation Decade in 1981, we have barely run half the course. It is also worth noting that we have achieved pitiful results at a similar snail’s pace.