Dr. Hamilton Blames World War for Breakdown of Health Services-Describes Work of League Health Committee
"The World War resulted in a frightful breakdown of health services in every country," declared Dr. Alice Hamilton, a member of the Health Committee of the League of Nations and Assistant Professor of Industrial Medicine at the Harvard School of Public Health to a CRIMSON reporter yesterday. "However," she continued, "the Health Committee of the League of Nations has ameliorated conditions to a remarkable extent."
Dr. Hamilton is one of three American members of this Committee which is composed of 24 persons from many nations. It is one of the few institutions of the League which utterly forgets nationalism, as the members are chosen for their qualifications in medical work rather than for their citizenship in a certain country.
Describing the work of the Committee, Dr. Hamilton said, "It meets informally twice a year at Geneva and discusses the work done since its last meeting and the new problems which have presented themselves. In the early years of the League we had to encourage and beg countries to let us help them, but now we are besieged with so many requests that it is a matter of choosing the ones we will deal with.
"At our first meeting, which was soon after the war, we were faced with outbreaks of malaria all over Europe. Another problem lay in the sleeping sickness prevalent in Africa. Following the treaty settlements England, France, and Belgium agreed on a uniform and cooperative treatment of this difficulty. The Committee has rendered extensive assistance in Esthonia, Lithuania, Czeckoslovakia, Poland, and "Greece: and is now receiving many re quests from South America, particularly to help stamp out leprosy.
"During the interval between meetings the real work is carried on by a small group of nine persons, headed by a member from Poland. The advantageous feature of the Committee is that it can call upon the experts of all nations, just as it asked an Englishman and a Frenchman, specialists on tuberculosis and diseases resulting from dust, to inspect the conditions in the gold mines of South Africa."
When asked to explain her own work, Dr. Hamilton said that she spends half of each year teaching and the other half visiting, inspecting, and suggesting improvements for factories. "My work deals mostly with industrial poisons, though I am now studying the effects of silica containing dust, which is not actually a poison but injures the lungs to such an extent that they are susceptible to tuberculosis germs.
"Lead and carbon monoxide are the most prevalent forms of poison. The latter is found in garages of course, and also in steel mills and coal mines. It is, in fact, found wherever gas is used. Unfortunately there are new poisons appearing all the time, but there is no governmental agency to investigate them. If a manufacturer wants to find out the quality of a rubber solvent, he can write to the Bureau of Standards; if he wants to find out the effects the solvent will have on his workmen, however, he is at a complete loss. Consequently he starts to use it cautiously and instead of using guinea pigs and rabbits, human beings are experimented upon.