|Tag(s):||Typhoid fever, Delray, Environmental Justice|
|Course:||“Environmental History in Detroit,” University of Michigan|
In 1858, Dr. Hennery Baker, the head of the Michigan Board of Health, diagnosed a large number of deaths in the Delray settlement as the results of an outbreak of typhoid fever. Typhoid, transmitted by drinking water contaminated with the feces of an infected person, was commonly found in the unsanitary conditions of urban centers across the industrialized world in the nineteenth century. Delray, a growing industrial settlement just southwest of Detroit, was home to approximately 15,000 inhabitants. Without adequate sanitation and water infrastructure, residents of the area were habitually disposing of their nightsoil on the ground, where it filtered into the local water supply. The people of Delray were not only worried about the spread of disease within their own community, but also with the way that Detroit had handled the dumping of its pollutants through the River Rouge. Since Delray lay downstream of Detroit, much of the dumped pollutants would wash up on Delray’s shores.
In 1913, many years after Dr. Baker's finding, little progress had been made, and residents still found themselves suffering disproportionately from the pollution of Detroit's industries. Now, increasing levels of air pollution from more and more industries meant that respiratory diseases caused the most diseases, followed by typhoid deaths due to poor sanitation. Approximately 430 people of every 100,000 living in Wayne County had died that year of complicated lung problems in Wayne County. This continued danger to public health reflects issues of environmental justice, as working-class people suffered from the conditions created by industrial urbanization.