Its purpose was to combat filthy urban living conditions, which caused various public health threats, including the spread of many diseases such as cholera and typhus. Reformers wanted to resolve sanitary problems, because sewage was flowing down the street daily, including the presence of sewage in living quarters.
The Act required all new residential construction to include running water and an internal drainage system. It also led to the government prohibiting the construction of shoddy housing by building contractors. With the rapid urbanisation that accompanied the Industrial Revolution, huge swathes of terraced houses had been built to accommodate the factory workers. The contrast between the housing stock built before the passage of the Act and that built after it was stark.
The Act also meant that every public health authority had to have a medical officer and a sanitary inspector, to ensure the laws on food, housing, water and hygiene were carried out.
Many factors delayed reform, however, such as the fact that to perform a cleanup, the government would need money, and this would have to come from factory owners, who were not keen to pay, and this further delayed reform. But reformers eventually helped to counteract the government's laissez-faire attitude, and a public health Act was introduced in 1875. Home Secretary Richard Cross was responsible for drafting the legislation, and received much good will from trades union groups in the consequent years for "humanising the toil of the working man".
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