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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of August 22, 1997

Facts about... the National Parks Act.

Transcript

CURWOOD: August fifteenth marks the inauguration of the Panama Canal. Once referred to as the Big Ditch, it opened in 1916 and remains vital to international commerce. Its completion was an incredible engineering feat, but the lessons learned along the way helped solve one of the most important health mysteries of all time. Soon after work began by the French in 1881, malaria and yellow fever emerged as serious threats to completing the project. Scientists were baffled as to why the diseases were spreading so rapidly. In 7 years the French lost almost 25,000 workers. As it turned out, the carrier was the tiny mosquito. Scientists discovered that work crews disturbing mosquito habitat helped spread the diseases. When the United States took over the project in 1904, it immediately began pest control. It wasn't until breeding sites were destroyed and patients quarantined that the epidemic finally ended and construction of the canal was completed. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

 

 

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