American Mortality Statistics and the Mills-Reincke Phenomenon

E. B. Fink
1917 Journal of Infectious Diseases  
In 1910, Sedgwick and MacNutt! published the results of their studies on the mortality statistics of several cities which had made a sudden change from a polluted to a pure water supply, and formulated what they termed the Mills-Reincke phenomenon and Hazen's theorem. The city of Lawrence, Mass., installed a water filtration plant in 1893, and during the period immediately following, Hiram F. Mills, chief city engineer and a member of the Massachusetts State Board of Health, noted a marked
more » ... noted a marked reduction in the general death' rate of the city, in addition to the decrease in the specific death rate from typhoid fever. At about the same time, the city of Hamburg, Germany, began the filtration of its water supply, and J. J. Reincke, health officer of Hamburg, emphasized in his annual reports that the reduction of the general death rate greatly exceeded the number of lives that could possibly have been saved from typhoid fever. Sedgwick and MacNutt, recognizing the sanitary significance of these observations, have applied to them the name of the 'Mills-Reincke phenomenon.' At the end of a paper on the "Purification of Water for Domestic Use. American Practice," Hazen" discusses filtration from the standpoint of hygiene. After comparing the crude death rates of several cities which had made a radical change in their water supply with others similarly situated but which had made no such change, he expresses the opinion that, "where one death from typhoid fever has been avoided by the use of a better water, a certain number of deaths, probably two or three, from other causes have been avoided." This numerical expression, Sedgwick and MacNutt have termed "Hazen's theorem." Both the Mills-Reincke phenomenon and Hazen's theorem have been widely quoted in public health: literature, and attempts have been made to demonstrate their operation in various cities by showing a *
doi:10.1093/infdis/21.1.62 fatcat:lidznlw4jzh37ccvlj36eermoy