Our Foreign Bureau

Harper's new monthly magazine 134, 1861

FROM a recent Report of the Council of Public Health for the Department of the Seine, for the ten years last past, we extract a few facts which may be of service to your metropolitan advisers — of double service if they serve to waken your public men to the importance of establishing a similar commission of scientific and hottest inquirers in all your large cities.

First of all, the Paris Board condemns the system of warming houses with furnace beat, particularly the large lodging-houses which are intended for the poorer clauses. It objects to the system that it does not supply ready means of ventilation, besides affording no means of economizing the heat according to the hours during which the apartments are occupied, or for rendering it serviceable for cooking purposes.

In regard to sewers, the Commission reports the entire feasibility of disinfecting all the impure waters discharged through them. It is further suggested that these disinfected waters be diverted from the river, according to a plan submitted by an eminent engineer, and the sediment reserved for agricultural purposes.

Certain cheap disinfectants recommended by the Board we copy:

"1. Dissolve sulphate of zinc in water, and add sufficient quantity of boiled rice-water; also a few drops of some aromatic essence: this produces a white liquid for the disinfection of liquids. Take on the other hand, a solution of sulphate of iron, and add a solution of tannin, some raw pyroligneous acid, a little charcoal, and a few drops of an aromatic essence; this will give a black liquid for the disinfection of solid matter. 2. Or else, dissolve 25 parts of sulphate of zinc, and two parts of sulphate of copper, in 973 parts of water. This, besides disinfecting fetid matter, may also be usefully applied in disinfecting places where many people are constantly crowded together, by aspersion with a watering-pot. 3. Lastly, a mixture of charcoal in grains and chloride of lime may be used, but this is more bulky sad costly."

In speaking of the comparative healthfulness of different trades, the Board signalizes the manufacture of white-lead as the most deleterious; and strongly urges the adoption of oxyd of zinc in place of white-lead. It instances a large housepainting establishment of Paris where the use of lead colors has been wholly abandoned, and their places supplied by the chromate of zinc, the sulphuret of antimony, and a combination of oxyd of cobalt and zinc, which has the name of riman green. These are innocent, and yield beautiful shades of color. The manufacture of lucifer matches is characterized as exceesively harmful.

The question of horse-flesh is considered, and the importance of it as an alimentary substance doubted. Good horseflesh may be palatable, but good bone-flesh is worth more for other purposes; whereas the grain or food which would go to build up broken-down hacks is much better bestowed upon sheep and bullocks. Twelve thousand horses are annually killed in the suburbs; but of these not one in a hundred are fit to furnish food.

The Board further condemns the custom of supplying poultry with animal food.

The report mentions an alimentary substance called Revalescière Dubarry, said to come from India, which it declares to be nothing else but a mixture of the flour of beans and lentils; while the Ervalenta or Revalenta Arabica is the flour of lentils alone. The sale of these pretended specifics has been forbidden by the Board, except under their real names. In the same manner Solenta is henceforth to be sold only as potato flour; and the famous Racahout des Arabes, and Palamout des Turcs, are to resume their original names of flour of acorns and flour of maize, with or without aroma or sugar. Tapioca also is henceforward to be sold according to its real origin, and labeled "Tapioca of exotic fecula," or "of indigenous fecula." Thus likewise the adulterations practiced on olive-oil have been unmasked by the Board. On the subject of wine, the Report condemns the use of what is called vin de teinte de Fiames, for giving winess dark color. It is a liquid extracted from elder-berries, with an addition of alum. Regarding milk, the Board declares that there are sufficient means for testing its purity, but that it would be prejudicial to the public to publish any instructions on the matter. It admits the addition of a little bicarbonate of soda to milk which is to be sent a great way, because it prevents its turning, and can not injure the health of the consumer. The use of potash, however, should be prohibited. A vast number of frauds on coffee, chocolate, and tea are further exposed, from which we learn that the finer and more high-sounding the name given to the compound, the more filthy and villainous it generally is, containing husks of cocoa, burned rye or beans, the refuse of beet-root sugar manufactories, etc. The only way, it appears, of being sure of the coffee one drinks is to buy it in the grain. Regarding sugar-plums, all kinds of fancy-paper colored with deleterious substances are forbidden. The coloring substances the use of which is permitted, are indigo, Prussian blue, ultramarine, cochineal, carmine, Brazil lake, saffron, French berries (grana Avenionensis), and their compounds for green and violet. The substances prohibited are — all oxyds of copper or lead, Sanders blue, sulphuret of copper or vermilion, chromate of lead, Schweinfurth green, Scheele's and metis green and white-lead.

The same Board of health from which we derive these suggestions remarks upon the feasibility of bringing salt-water to Paris from the neighborhood of Honfleur, for the establishment of sea-water baths. As a preliminary step, and to test the efficacy of such baths in a metropolitan district, the old school-frigate has been moored near to the Pont Royal, and is now being fitted for a bathing establishment, the sea-water being brought each day by rail from Havre.

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