Urban Environmental Problems

Earth, Wind, and Fire

Urban environmental problems

     19th-century health problems

      Epidemics: Yellow fever; cholera; smallpox; typhoid fever; typhus

      Endemic diseases: Scarlet fever; tuberculosis; diphtheria

     “Miasmas” and disease

     Filth, dirt, & poverty: sources of disease

     Poor’s physical, moral, productive condition

Sanitation and Garbage

     Dumping in lots, rivers, or the sea

Cleaning up water

     Purification of drinking water

      Sand or mechanical filtration

      Acceptance of Pasteur’s theory by 1900

      Chlorine (after 1908)


      Water closets: need for water & sewers

      Water use skyrockets

      Creating water supplies
in other people’s back yards

Rise of urban pollution control

     Sewer-building programs by 1880s

      Cesspits pollute wells

      Sewers dump directly into streams

     By 1890s: demand for change

      Garbage, foul smells, health hazards

      Polluted water & typhoid

      Rise of citizen groups: middle-class women

      New profession: sanitary engineering

     Sewage treatment is expensive and lagslags

     Industrial pollution ignored

      Too expensive; economic power of industries

      Fish kills not a political issue

Urban air pollution

     Atmospheric inversion

      Location of cities near water for power and transportation

Energy transition and the air

     From renewable energy of muscle and wood

      Cheap, polluting bituminous coal

      Expensive, cleaner anthracite less used



     Blots out sun; covers everything in soot

     Sickens people

     Trees die

     Foundations, viaducts, statues crumble





Fighting air pollution

     Civic & women’s groups attack smoke nuisance

      Smoke Abatement Leagues

      Passage of local smoke legislation

     Newspapers attack lenient judges

     Uphill fight

      Smoke = progress, prosperity