Today we still have chimney sweeps and it is wise to clean your chimneys once a year. In the 19th century the need for workers in this field was high.
In The Hygiene, diseases and mortality book ©1892 published in London, we find this excerpt about the health issues chimney sweeps deal with.
Chimney Sweeps are a class by themselves so far as concerns the active cause of disease existing among them. In the chapter on the ' conditions of labour,' we have cited sweeps as a class of labourers who suffer physically and morally by the social position allotted them. They are to a certain degree Helots of society, placed under circumstances inimical to their social well-being and their health; and, from this cause, apart from the peculiar incidents of their occupation, we might expect them to occupy an unfavourable position in tables of comparative mortality, and such we find to be the case. Thus Dr. Ogle says their death-rates between the ages of twenty-five and forty-five, and also between fortyfive and sixty-five, arc excessively high, and their 'total mortality, as shown by their comparative mortality figure (1519), is 50 per cent. higher than the average' (op. cit. p. 56).
As to causes of death, the Table K indicates no marked difference between those prevailing among coal-heavers and sweeps. Those of the circulatory system are somewhat rare, and those of the digestive organs decidedly so. Phthisis and respiratory maladies stand much on a par in the two trades; the latter in a slightly lower ratio. But, in the matter of alcoholism, sweeps show a greatly higher percentage than coal-heavers; that is, as 206 to 13 per cent.
Moreover, sweeps are often troubled with skin (eczematous) eruptions, and their eyes suffer with the acrid soot, making them blear-eyed. It seems demonstrable, moreover, that the soot finds its way into the subcutaneous tissue, where it produces small patches, not removable by washing. From these the black particles can, it seems, make their way along the lymphatic spaces to more distant localities. (See remarks by Mr. W. G. Spencer, British Medical Journal, November 15, 1890.)
But the disease, par eminence, attaching to their calling is epithelial cancer. Dr. Ogle discovered, from his statistics, that' of 242 deaths of chimney sweeps, no less than forty-nine were due to some or other form of malignant disease. This gives 202 deaths from this cause to 1000 deaths from all causes; whereas the proportion of deaths from malignant disease to deaths from all causes, among all males from twenty-five to sixty-five years of age in England and Wales, is only thirty-six in 1000; so that, even if the total mortality of sweeps were simply equal to that of all males, their mortality from malignant disease would be more than five times as much as the average. But the mortality of chimney sweeps ... is 50 per cent. higher than the average, so that the liability of chimney sweeps to malignant disease is about eight times as great as the average liability for all males. These figures scarcely support the belief expressed by some authorities that improvements in the art and habits of sweeps have caused this disease to be comparatively infrequent among them.' Of the forty-nine cases of deaths by cancer returned, the scrotum and adjacent parts weje the seat of the lesion in twenty-three; in thirteen the organ affected was not stated; but in seven of them the malady was in internal organs, and the rest in the face, hip, orbit, palate, or neck.
The consoling belief that sweeps' cancer is becoming a scarce phenomenon, since the application of the special Acts of Parliament controlling their work, is also somewhat rudely shaken by Mr. Butlin, of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, who, in his work on Cancer, affirms that numerous instances are to be met with.