DEATH FROM INHALLING SEWER GAS.- William Gronow [sic], an expert drainer, with two other men, commenced to open an old drain, which was supposed to have not been opened for the last forty years, on the premises of Mr George Parker, in the occupation of Messrs. Oaks and Griffiths at Farndon. Starting at the mouth on the 13th of March, where it was shallow, and deepened as they crossed the road to the end of it to twelve feet, W. Gronow [sic] was the principal, and worked at the bottom until the work was finished. He was taken ill on Saturday, March 22nd, and attended by Dr. Parker who pronounced it to be blood poison from sewer gas, until his death which took place on the 26th ult., and he was buried on Sunday.
William Gronnow was born in 1838 in Farndon and buried in St. Chads Church, Farndon Cheshire on the 30th March 1884. William is my 3rd cousin 3x removed.
It is well known that gases such as ammonia, carbonic oxide, carbonic acid, and sulphuretted hydrogen — which are frequently found in sewer air — are highly poisonous, and have, in consequence, when inhaled, an injurious influence upon health, the degree of which seems to depend on the amount so taken into the system. If the dose is small, then the poisoning is of a mild form ; but if the dose is large, then the poisoning is frequently very acute, and instantaneous death may be the result. It is greatly to be regretted that the statistical information concerning the health of sewermen is generally very incomplete. No proper continuous records appear to have been kept anywhere, and, when required, facts and figures have had to be collected probably years after the dates to which they refer, and that, too, in a somewhat haphazard manner. The results of such enquiries are therefore in most cases- not based upon a proper system of notification, and must be received with a certain amount of caution.
In cases of this kind the death of the workman is frequently instantaneous. He enters the sewer or cesspit and collapses there all at once as if he had been hit by a bullet. Sometimes it has also been observed that the workman has uttered a cry and then had severe convulsive fits, with vomiting and spontaneous secretion of faeces and urine ; foam covered the mouth, and the patient either died at once or remained unconscious for a long time.