Do we not learn from history?

October 2, 2012 at 5:23 am Leave a comment

I know it’s been some time since I’ve written on my blog. Not because I’ve given up my fight for my boys or that I’ve ‘moved on’. I’m just a homeschooling mom of 7 and I don’t have a lot of time to myself. But I do think about it quite often. I’ve been moved to blog before, but have had sometimes received negative comments from so-called “knowledgeable” people who just fling hurt at others that some days it just doesn’t seem worth it. Why cause myself more pain when I don’t even know if I am even helping anyone?

 

But I’ve been thinking lately and reading. I get to read while I breastfeed my rainbow baby. It’s not long moments, but they are mine and I get to read the information books that my 10 year old loves to read. Short and factual and sometimes fascinating. Well, his latest book was about technology. And I know that technology can be great. So much has happened as a culture in such a short time due to technology. We have so much more and are able to do more, experience more, and help more. Being in a country like Canada where we benefit so much from technology. The amazing gadgets and the ease with which we travel to different parts of the world; we are a country with so much. Knowledge is definitely up there. Because of knowledge, we now have better health and longer lives. We can cure some diseases with ease that killed many in the not too distant past. Because of technology, surgeons in 8 hours could fix my rainbow’s heart. A condition that was a death sentence not many years ago. We have come so far. Amazing!

 

But then again, people are dying when they shouldn’t be. Our culture worships the almighty dollar, so if there is something out there that can make some money, market the hell out of it. Honesty and integrity have nothing to do with it. If you can convince enough people of your product’s efficacy, true or not, then you have it made.

 

Have we really changed much throughout history, even with more knowledge and technology? Before the 1900’s, milk was not pasteurized. And that is only because society didn’t have the knowledge of the dangers of germs. Milk came from a cow to your table. Some places if you weren’t lucky enough to live on a farm, but lucky enough to live in a city where a farm was near, you had farmers walk around town with their cow and ask if you’d like milk. If you did, you gave him a pitcher and watched him milk the cow right before your eyes. But soon that wasn’t practical. Cows got milked and then that milk was delivered. And not in those cute milk jugs. Cows you never saw got milked and open buckets were brought around while an in-between or someone like a used car salesman scooped out of the bucket with his ladle into your jar. Customers had no idea on the germs that milk carried. Swill fed cows. Cows that were tied to pens their whole lives, fed only distillery swill. Pens that were never cleaned. These cattle were milked until the day they died. Some didn’t live more than a year or two and died of horrible illnesses that were passed to the customers. The clients that died the most were children under the age of 5, since they were more susceptible to diseases. When in between 1843 and 1856,  when the mortality rates of children under 5 tripled, the same rate as the growth of Swill Milk farms, some people took notice. An article in 1858 in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper published a series of articles describing in detail the swill dairies. Two years later, some states started disallowing the sales of swill milk.

 

Improvements were made for the new century. Bottles with sealable lids were invented. But only for keeping anything dirty out after cows were milked. Also, fines were given to salesmen who failed the lactometer test. This stopped the addition of things like flour, salt, chalk, plaster of Paris or anything that made sick milk look “healthy”. And because of the advancements in the understanding of bacteria, and its role in causing diseases,  by the 1880’s and 1890’s, scientists were understanding that dirty infected cows could pass diseases to humans. Pasteurization was already invented in the 1860’s. But because Louis Pasteur’s ideas were considered too revolutionary, it didn’t arrive in the US until the 1880’s. And it still took more than 30 years to finally catch on!

 

A philanthropist by the name of Nathan Straus worked hard at changing things. He had been reading Pasteur’s work and theoretical benefits of pasteurization. In 1893 he started setting up milk-processing stations and teaching mothers about hygiene. He decided to do testing to show why pasteurization was important. He started providing milk to an orphanage that had seen death rates as high as 42% from TB and other milk-borne diseases. Since it was located on an island, their milk was provided by a single herd of cows. So it was easy to control the milk the orphans drank. Within a year after pasteurizing their milk, the mortality rate dropped to 28% and continued to drop in the years that followed. Although he was adding milk stations and the death rates were dropping, the dairy industry was staying away from it. They said pasteurization cost too much and blocked efforts to require it by law. Even the public was resisting it.

 

Straus was instrumental in getting New York to create the post of inspector of dairy farms. One of the first cities in the nation to inspect the quality of milk at the source. He tried to get it to happen in all the cities of New York. But many milk distributors, doctors and even the city’s Health Departments opposed him. Their argument? My favorite quote right here people. “The health benefits of ‘clean raw milk’ outweigh the risks.”

 

Aha! This has happened before. When money is involved, it doesn’t matter on the safety of the public. What costs less to manufacture and how can we make the most money. Who cares if people die because of it? It’s all in a day’s work. So some people die? There is money to be made. Not until 1911 did the National Commission of Milk Standards finally come out and advise that pasteurization become compulsory. But it still didn’t catch. Sounds like those FDA warnings that get ignored. In 1913,  when a typhoid fever epidemic struck New York claiming thousands of victims, with proof that it was carried by milk and could be killed by pasteurization, then and only then did the city finally do something.

 

It took 57 years for things to finally change. In our day and age with so much information and knowledge and technology, how long will it take for the warnings to be taken seriously? How many people will have to die? Are they waiting for another epidemic before they do something? Look around. It’s happening. Babies are dying or born with long term problems. Patients are killing themselves or others. There is so much death surrounding these medications. There are warnings and studies and tests. But they are being ignored. There are so many great fighters out there. If we all keep fighting, maybe one day, it will be banished too and again we can be safe. If we are to look at history and learn from it, then now is the time. History is repeating itself and it’s at the risk of our generation.

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