BEECHEY: Thank the Romans for indoor plumbing

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A friend thought I should write an article on some archaic beliefs of the past in regard to where health is today.

3000 BC – Bathing went from waterfalls and rivers to showers with lead pipes thanks to the Greeks. The Romans added lead-lined tanks and indoor plumbing. This saved rich people going to the well or river, but contaminated water was still brought into the house. By 476 AD, aqueducts and bathhouses – public and private – disappeared. For thousands of years lead water pipes were used until banned (in 1975 in Canada).

From Greek times surgeries were being done, however doctors did not wash their hands before plunging them into their patients.

1346-1353 AD – Trade routes by land or sea can transmit diseases. The Black Death is believed to have started in China, and killed people on its way to Europe where 40 to 50 per cent of people died within four years. It was a bacterium spread by fleas, which most people had due to the rushes in their homes or from animals. Other plagues like cholera were transmitted by water so many people became afraid of it, believing a layer of dirt on their skin would protect them.

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1400 AD – The Chinese invented toilet paper. I thank them.

1854 – A cholera epidemic was surging in England and physician John Snow observed the cholera seemed to spread via sewage-contaminated water. He removed the water pump’s handle, instantly containing it.

1858 – Hot weather struck London, England’s capital, in 1858, drying up the River Thames and leaving pure sewage and other wasted piled up and exposed. This was the start of ‘The Great Stink,’ which eventually initiated a reform of the sewage systems and cesspits.

Suddenly the groundwork of Louis Pasteur expanded the germ theory and by 1890 viruses were discovered. Then they learned that diseases were spread by water, touch, sexually, excrement, blood and air droplets. People started paying attention to science.

1886 – Scientists were experimenting on everything and industry adapted to new ideas. Some were fantastic, others not so good. Cocaine made you feel good, so it was put into the new drink Coca Cola! It was removed around 1903.

1889 – Dr. Batty’s asthma cigarettes came out to provide temporary relief of paroxysms of asthma, hay fever, foul breath, all diseases of the throat, head colds, canker sores and bronchial irritations.

1936 – Dr. Freeman began hammering an icepick through human eye sockets to sever connections to the brain’s frontal lobes and thalamus (a lobotomy) for those with depressed or ‘emotionally ill.’ Some deemed it a success. However, John F. Kennedy’s sister’s procedure by Dr. Freeman left her incapacitated and needing full time care for the rest of her life. She was 23 years old. Dr. Freeman taught his method and personally did as many as 3,439 lobotomies until 1967.

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Although governing regulating bodies began in the mid 1800s, you can see that the public was still pretty much a guinea pig. Regulations were finally implemented and will probably never stop as new inventions and procedures are needed to contain the latest health craze or crisis, like COVID-19.

2020 – Today we still have people who deny centuries of research and developments which keep us safe today. Would you have surgery with no sterile conditions? Of course not, you understand the germ concept, and know you could die or have lasting disabilities from infections you could get.

Yet, today some won’t wear a mask? Canadians are educated and understand germ disbursement, yet there are too many too selfish to wear a mask.

When I was growing up, polio was prolific. I am thankful my parents gave me that vaccine. I do not get every vaccine, but with diseases that can kill and maim like polio and COVID, I will get! Until everyone can get this COVID vaccine, keep wearing your mask, wash your hands and step back two to three metres.

lbeechey@rogers.com

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