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Toynbee. These gentlemen have drawn up an elaborate report upon the subject : we now proceed to give a summary of its chief contents.
From their examination and experiments, there can be no doubt that the Ledoyen Auid is an excellent corrector of foul and noisome stenches. So far, then, it may become a most useful application in a variety of cir. cumstances, which need scarcely be mentioned. The trials, that were made with it for the purpose of counteracting the offensive odour of fæculent and other discharges in the wards of hospitals, &c., were altogether most satisfactory. To nightmen too, and others engaged in the offensive, and often not unperilous, task of emptying old cesspools, opening foul drains, &c., the free use of the fluid will be found of the very greatest service. So far the report is altogether favourable to the discorery. Let us now see what other properties it possesses.
Although powerfully anti-bromic* (to use an epithet suggested by Dr. Macdonnell
, who wisely discriminates between the properties of “ stenchdestroying” and of " disinfecting), the Ledoyen fluid does not possess, it would appear, any very notable antiseptic properties.
“ The result of experiments,” say the reporters, “induces us to doubt whether this fluid be more efficacious in checking the process of decomposition than other methods already known and in common use. As to large and solid parts, such as a whole limb, it is certain that they cannot by mere immersion in this fluid be kept in a state fit for scientific purposes. Membranous organs, as the intestine, may be somewhat better preserved by this fluid, and the same may be true of their sections of solid organs, as of the liver ; but discolouration occurs in all these cases, and putrefaction is but imperfectly prevented. It is the opinion of a person thoroughly versed in these inatters, and who assisted us in making these examinations, that a strong solution of nitrate of potash mixed with a very small portion of corrosive sublimate (bichloride of mercury), a preparation long and extensively used, is in all respects as effective as the fluid of Mr. Ledoyen.
“ We are therefore of opinion, that whilst this Auid may be regarded as a useful addition to the preparations already known for preserving parts for dissection, it has no peculiar efficacy in the preservation of the dead body. Still, however, from the result of experiments hereafter to be stated, we have no doubt that this fluid might be usefully employed in the dissecting-room, to disinfect the atmosphere, and even for the removal of fætor from the exposed surfaces of parts under dissection.” P. 7.
Having thus ascertained the qualities of the Auid as an antibromic and antiseptic, we have next to examine whether it be entitled to the appellation of disinfectant," in the sense of a corrigent or antidote to the operation of infectious or disease-transmitting effluvia.
Colonel Calvert, indeed, takes this point for granted ; for he does not hesitate to assure Lord Morpeth that it disinfects sailors suffering from fever on board of vessels ; it will also disinfect ships at sea and under quarantine. It disinfects patients suffering with infectious disorders and wounds, also dead bodies, so that they may be kept nearly a month.” The jumbling together here of conditions, which have scarcely any analogy with one another, can only be excused on the ground of the Colonel's knowing very little of what he was writing about. As to the preservative
* Arti, against, and Bowuos, fætor.
1847) Solutions of Nitrate of Leud 8; Chloride of Zinc.
effects of the fluid, we have already seen how far the evidence of the reporters warrants his very confident statements. But what say these gentlemen on the much more important allegation as to its alleged power of counteracting the agency of infection ? At page 11 we read thus :
“ In severe and malignant fevers, especially when several cases of this character occur at the same time, and when the wards of the hospital are crowded, as always happen when fever becomes epidemic, the nurses invariably suffer, and some of them are sure to perish. In our opinion the use of this fluid will be a great protection to this class of persons under such circumstances, while, by keeping the air of the wards fresh and wholesome, it will be alike protection to the physicians and other officers, as well as to the friends of the patients who come to visit them, and at the same time it must operate favourably on the general course of the fever itself.
“ There is another important application of this fluid in fever, and in all other diseases in which the excretions of the body become vitiated. It rarely happens at the fever hospitals, that a laundress who retains her situation a few months, when fever is at all prevalent, escapes an attack of fever ; in bad cases of fever the evacuations are passed in bed, involuntarily and unconsciously, and all the excretions of the body with which the bed-clothes become saturated are much more noxious than in health. The effluvia which arise from these bed-clothes, when they are washed, are sure, sooner or later, to produce fever in those who inhale them. By immersing the bed-clothes and the body.linen in this fluid, it is probable that many lives might be saved, and that the constitution in still more instances might be prevented from receiving a shock which is never recovered, even when death is not the immediate result of the attack. It is obvious that the same must be true in other diseases besides fever; in fact, wherever the secretions and excretions become vitiated.” P. 11.
It will be observed that the opinion here expressed is given only as a probable conjecture, and not as the result of any satisfactory experiments. The correction of fætid effluvia is too readily assumed as a ground for believing that there is, at the same time, a necessary neutralisation or destruction of infectious miasms. But this is the very fact we want to discover. The reporters seem to have taken for granted that, if the one be the case, the other must be so likewise. At least, their language fairly bears this interpretation ; for, in the very next sentence after that just quoted, it is remarked :
“ With reference to the power of this fluid to restore purity to contaminated air, it is important to advert to the common practice of burning pastiles and other matters to remove offensive odours from sitting and other rooms. The effect of this practice is merely to overpower an offensive by an agreeable odour; the cause of the offensive smell still remains in full operation, only our senses are prevented from appreciating it; but when, on the contrary, the fætor of a room is removed by this disinfecting fluid, the gas upon which the fætor depends is decomposed, and therefore the air of the room is purified by the removal of the very cause that contaminated it.” P. 11.
The expression which we have marked in Italics, occurring in the course of observations upon the spread of “serere and malignant fever," must naturally be regarded by most medical readers as implying an allusion not merely to à fætid or offensive, but to a positively infected or miasm-charged, condition of the atmosphere. Moreover, that Dr. Smith (for we may reasonably suppose that he was the writer of this part of the Report) is constantly associating in his mind the co-existence of foul smells with the generation and diffusion of infectious fevers is pretty obvious, from the circumstance of his making the remark, immediately after alluding to the promptly-fatal effects of Sulphuretted Hydrogen in a concentrated state upon human beings, that " we trace its remoter consequences in the fevers and choleras that follow." Yet, as in very contradiction of this mutual association, we find that Dr. Leeson,—to whom the Reporters had applied for his opinion as to the virtues of M. Ledoyen's fiuid-in his tabular arrangement of putrescent animal and vegetable effluvia, has classified" typhoid miasmata" among those which are dangerous but inodorous ; and he (Dr. L.) adds, in reference to the fluid :
“ In regard to its efficacy as a disinfecting agent, the general result of these experiments establish the conclusion that the efficacy of this process is confined to the removal of the unpleasant odours due to sulphuretted hydrogen and hydrosulphate of ammonia. As the sulphuretted hydrogen is the most abundant and most offensive of the various products of animal and vegetable decoinposition, it is evident that, although this process cannot remove the whole of the offensive odours, it is still well suited to effect a very important and extensive amelioration of the nuisance arising therefrom.” P. 13.
We may here state that the fluid in question is a solution of the Nitrate of Lead. Besides the advantage of being inodorous itself, it possesses this not inconsiderable one, viz., that the nitric acid combines with the ammo. nia of the putrescent matters, thus preventing its dissipation, and forming at the same time a salt which is known to be highly serviceable for agricul. tural purposes. Whether the metallic sulphuret, that is formed at the same time, may prove at all hurtful when the soil is dressed with manure that has been previously treated with the fluid, remains to be found out. The antibromic properties of the preparation are entirely owing to its power of fixing and neutralising sulphuretted hydrogen gas and hydro-sulphuretof ammonia. That it has any power in destroying other sorts of stenches appears to be doubtful. It is to be regretted that the reporters did not think of comparing it with other preparations which have been used for the same purpose, before going so far as to recommend to the Government, “that, as it renders the removal of night-soil practicable without creating a nuisance, it ought, in our opinion, to be made a matter of police regulation that no privy or cess-pool should be emptied without the previous use of a sufficient quantity of it to destroy all offensive smell.” After the word “it,” would it not have been only fair to insert, “or of any other equally effectual counteragent?” In making this remark, we allude more particularly to Sir William Burnett's (improperly designated) “ disinfecting fluid,” which has been much longer before the public than that which Colonel Calvert attempts to thrust upon us with such intemperate zeal. As strong and very conclusive evidences of the exceedingly useful properties of the Burnett fluid, we shall select two or three of the certificates which are adduced in its favour, in the Parliamentary Report just published, so that the reader will be able to form a tolerable fair estimate of the comparative advantages of the two preparations :
Royal Naval Hospital, at Haslar,
12 July 1847. “ In compliance with your directions to us to report on the use of Sir William Burnett’s fluid as a disinfectant, or as to the removal of noxious smells, we have
Their Antibromic and Antiseptic Properties.
to inform you that it has been used in this hospital in the close-stools of patients affected with dysentery, in the water-closets and cesspools, and also in the wards, when the air was tainted by purulent expectoration or discharge from sores, with the effect of immediately removing the disagreeable odours. It has also been used in the surgery with good effect, in removing the smell of putrefying animal substances, the odours of dead bodies under inspection, and when employed as a dressing to ulcers, it removes the disagreeable smell of purulent matter, and in the proportion of one part of the clear solution to eighteen of water, it preserves subjects of natural history from putrefaction, and in a fit state for anatomical inspection, after more than a year has elapsed, or as long as our trials of it have lasted. We have had no contagious or epidemic diseases in the hospital, by which its powers of arresting infection might be tested; but it has been used, much diluted, for sponging the skin of patients affected by fever, with evident benefit, and the immediate removal of the odour of perspiration, and as it is itself inodorous, it is in no way offensive to the patients.
We have, &c.
Medical Inspector. (signed) J. Anderson, Medical Inspector.
James Allan, Deputy Inspector. Captain Superintendent
Alexander M‘Kechnie, m.D. Surgeon. Sir W. E. Parry.
Alexander Stuart, Assisting Surgeon.” The fluid has been most extensively used for the correction of the noxious effects of foul bilge-water, and with the most satisfactory results, as evidenced by the reports of various naval surgeons, captains, and shipbuilders. One will suffice. Mr. Chapman, the surgeon of H. M. S. “Porcupine," says:
“ I have to inform you that your solution has been applied to the holds of the ‘Porcupine,' (in which vessel I have the honour to serve), and although a very short time has elapsed since its application, the disgusting effluvium which previously existed is now entirely removed ; indeed, its effects appear to be instantaneous, for, on the morning after applying the solution, not the slightest fætor existed ; and, as a further proof of its perfect success, plate, gold lace, and other metallic substances, now retain their colour and brilliancy, which before could never be kept from tarnishing-evidently showing the corrosive principles are also removed; but, above all, the health of the ship's company has already improved, and their comfort has been much enbanced by the removal of the deleterious and highly offensive effluvia which were emitted previous to the application.” P. 9.
Mr. Bowman testifies to “its value as a preservative of animal structures prepared by the anatomists. When used in a proper degree of dilution (about one part to fifty of water), its success is complete, and it appears to me to preserve the colour and texture of the parts very admirably. It has the further very important advantage of not acting on the steel instruments, being, in this respect, equal to alcohol.” Equally conclusive is the evidence of Dr. Sharpey, and other gentlemen.
Professor Quain has used the fluid as an application to sloughy tumours, &c., and he is of opinion that " it will supplant the Chloride of Lime and Soda altogether in the removal of fætid odour." The only evidence, by the bye, adduced in favour of the Ledoyen fluid for this purpose, is a somewhat unsatisfactory communication from Mr. Travers, junior, relative to one case of “ fætid and ill-conditioned sores” on the leg, in which it was applied at St. Thomas's hospital.
It would seem, therefore, that Sir W. Burnett's preparation is vastly superior to M. Ledoyen's as an antiseptic; while, at the same time, it is equally potent as an antibromic. Let us now see whether there is any evidence of its (the former) being a disinfectant,-in other words, possessed of any power to arrest or modify the spread of infectious diseases. What thinks the reader of the following communication from Mr. Varling, the surgeon of H.M.S. “Vengeance,” to Sir. W. Burnett ?
“ Having used the chloride of zinc rather extensively on board Her Majesty's Ship Vengeance,' whilst employed in the conveyance of troops, I think proper to report to you the result thereof. We carried the 1st battalion of the 42nd regiment, consisting of about 700 men, women, and children, from Malta to Bermuda. Measles had prevailed epidemically in the regiment previously to their embarkation, but we received none on board labouring under the disease; yet, after being ten days at sea, several cases occurred simultaneously among the soldiers, and, on the 1st of April, having been then a month at sea, the disease appeared among our own people, ten cases occurring on that day, and from that day to the 15th of the month, when we arrived at Bermuda, fresh cases were almost of daily occurrence, either among our own people or the troops. On getting rid of the troops, which we did at Bermuda, my attention was of course specially directed to every means whereby the contagion could be destroyed. Cleanliness and ventilation were duly attended to, and every part of the ship where the sick had been, after being cleaned and.aired, was sponged well over with the solution of chloride of zinc several times. Than the result, nothing could be better; the disease totally ceased, no fresh case occurring after. On our passage from Halifax, with the 60th regiment on board, the weather was so bad, and the ship working so much, that it was quite impossible to open any of the lower-deck ports, on which deck the whole of the people lived, troops as well as our own people, for eight days; the air throughout the deck was exceedingly vitiated with every mixture of noxious smell, but the free use of the chloride of zinc tended, in most surprising inanner, to do away with the bad smell ; so much so, that the surgeon of the regiment came to me to get some to use in the part of the ship where the ladies of the officers were. The effect of the chloride of zinc is most obvious in correcting all bad and offensive effluvia; and from the sudden and surprising manner in which the measles disappeared after its use, it is not, I think, too much to say, that it must have been very instrumental in decomposing the miasm, or state of atmosphere in the ship, which tended to the generation of the disesse.” P. 12.
Does the evidence warrant Mr. Varling's conclusion ? We think not. Perhaps the following statement from Dr. Cronin, as to the effects of the solution when freely used in the fever hospitals at Cork, may be deemed a little, but only a little, more satisfactory :
“ I commenced,” says Dr. C., " its general and exclusive use on Sunday the 20th June 1847, chloride of lime having been previously in use, and have no hesitation in distinctly stating, that I found it a powerful agent in speedily removing all noxious, unwholesome, and offensive smells, arising both from the external and internal excretions of a number of persons occupying the same room, and which will arise, no matter how well soever ventilated such apartments
" This effect of the use of chloride of zinc was not only observable in all the wards of both hospitals, but in the yards, necessaries and cesspools.
“ That the purification of the air should have much influence in modifying the character, and in mitigating the severity of a disease (by many, very many, supposed to be contagious), is an axiom very extensively, if not generally, adınitted.
“ How far such influence has been exercised by the use of the chloride of zinc