Thursday, 8 May 2014

Century old report confirms air pollution drives infant mortality levels

Michael Ryan is continuing his brave fight to expose the current impact of air pollution around incinerators on infant death rates by going back a century to show how even then air pollution was regarded as a driving factor in high infant death rates. 

Ryan has already demonstrated how infant mortality rates leap even when incinerators are planted in affluent locations. (see

He was also the first to note the tie-up between a recent study in Turkey and a UK one in 2008 which both reported how following the introduction of natural gas - which produces lower particulate emissions than its predecessor, coal gas, and therefore causes less air pollution - there had been a dramatic fall in infant mortality levels in both countries.

Ryan has now highlighted that in 1914, Dr William A Brend, Lecturer on Forensic Medicine at Charing Cross Hospital, scrutinised infant mortality rates for all parts of the British Isles. (Which included at this time all of Ireland)

Dr Brend concluded in his book, Health and the State, (available online at
that air pollution and not poverty was the driving factor. 

On page 72 the report states:- 

Poverty is often looked upon as one of the greatest causes of infant deaths. Yet per se it does not appear to be so. The wages paid in agricultural districts are notoriously the lowest paid in the community, yet the infant mortality rate in rural Wiltshire averages only about 60, while in Kensington the average is over 100. The earnings of the Connaught peasant or the Highland crofter do not approach those of the miners of Durham or Glamorganshire, yet the loss of infant life among them is only one third of that in mining areas. 

The influence of poverty is felt most directly in housing and food-supply, yet it is impossible to say that in these respects rural districts are better off than towns. It is well known that housing in many rural districts is deplorable. A cottage may look picturesque, but its thatched roof and creepers may hide defective walls and floors, unsound drainage, low ceilings, and ill-ventilated rooms, fully as bad as those in the worst quarters of cities. The rooms may be overcrowded, and there may be no adequate conveniences for cooking or maintaining cleanliness. And not only may the cottages be defective, but in many villages there are patches of overcrowding which present the worst features of town slums. It is indeed well recognised that the difficulty of obtaining sufficient housing accommodation for labourers has been one of the great obstacles to agricultural development in recent years. When we examine food-supply we find no reason to suppose that the agricultural worker is better off in this respect than the town dweller. We know as a matter of fact that the poor in rural districts are often insufficiently fed, and meat for 
the family may be an exceptional luxury. 

On page 87 this report states:- 

The Effect of a Smoke and Dust-polluted Atmosphere 

We have now examined, with one exception, the main factors which might be held to account for a high rate of  infant mortality, and we find that differences neither in poverty, bad housing, insufficient feeding, defective sanitation, disease, industrial occupation of women, nor malnutrition of mothers can be regarded as adequate to explain the excessive and widespread difference between urban and rural rates of infant mortality. 

The factor which remains to be examined is that of smoke and dust in the atmosphere. Dirtiness of the air appears to be the one constant accompaniment of a high infant mortality: purity of the atmosphere is the one great advantage which the agricultural labourer of Wiltshire, the Connaught peasant, and the poverty-stricken crofter of the Highlands enjoy over the resident in the town. In the opinion of the writer, a smoky and dusty atmosphere as a cause of infant mortality far transcends all other influences.

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