Continuing my last article, at the end of the 1800s, approximately 14 percent of the world’s death rate was the result of tuberculosis (TB). It was the third leading cause of death in America. Though doctors thought bacteria was a major cause, the public didn’t take appropriate protective measures, because they didn’t believe their behaviors and attitudes could affect their health. They continued to behave as normal, such as sipping from a shared glass with strangers and family as well as the common practice of spitting inside public buildings, on public transit and sidewalks. By the late 1890s, the New York City Health Department began a campaign for people to use special spittoons indoors that were to be regularly cleaned. It soon became the norm to consider such habits uncouth and bad behavior. These modifications in behavior reduced the TB incidence within the population and helped to eventually eradicate a widespread killer disease.
Another common health problem that today would cause society to swell up in unrelenting opposition was the amount of human and animal waste in the streets of the biggest cities, as well as small towns across the U.S. During the late 1800s, there was no such business as waste removal from homes. People merely threw their garbage out of their windows into the streets. And because there was no indoor plumbing, imagine where that waste was discarded … correct, out the window!