What Were Health and Sanitation Like During the Industrial Revolution?

During the Industrial Revolution, disease was rampant and sanitary conditions were deplorable. People lived and worked in crowded conditions, and sewage and waste was not properly disposed of. Lack of hygienic practices and the rapid spread of disease lead to many deaths during this time period.

People were often in poor health because they lived in overly crowded apartments and tenements. Living conditions were terrible, as slums appeared and construction standards were low. Clean water was often hard to find because sewage and waste were dumped into the same rivers that supplied drinking and washing water. Some areas lacked washing facilities, leaving residents without hygienic options.

Because of the crowded living and working spaces, the lack of clean water, and the incorrect knowledge of what caused disease, multitudes of people died. Doctors of the time thought diseases were carried by fumes and gases rather than germs, bacteria and viruses. With poor ventilation, contaminated water and malnutrition raging through the slums, illnesses spread quickly with devastating results, Cholera, typhoid, typhus, small pox and tuberculosis claimed numerous lives. As many as one-third of the deaths in Britain from 1800 to 1850 were caused by tuberculosis. In 1849, half of the 30,000 people in London infected with cholera died.