Sunday, October 26, 2014

Caisson disease and Brooklyn Bridge

Caisson disease is a medical condition related to sudden exposure to a reduction in the pressure surrounding the body.

The work of Brooklyn Bridge started on January 3, 1870. The foundations were built first structures called ‘caissons’ were built and sunk to the river bottom. Washington Roebling designed the caissons for the Brooklyn Bridge. These were complex divided: Each caisson has several holes in the roof that provided access to the hollow chamber inside.

No water could get into it. Workers dug until they reached solid rock where the arches could be built.

Compressed air had to be pumped into the caisson constantly so that the workers could breathe. The high pressure inside the chamber also helped prevent the caisson’s walls from collapse because of weight of the water around it.

The caisson went deeper and deeper, and some workmen began to feel sick when they exited the chamber. Workers got it when they left the caissons and rose to the surface too quickly. Several people died from caisson disease and others were paralyzed.

They complained about pains in their arms and legs, dizziness and vomiting. Andrew Smith, a doctor brought in to study the situation, correctly divined that rapid decompression was the key to the problem.

The illness suffered by workers became known as caisson disease. It is also known as ‘the bends’.

Today, decompression sickness is both well understood and easily prevented. The key is to avoid a rapid change in pressure.
Caisson disease and Brooklyn Bridge

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