Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/117

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107
BAD AIR AND BAD HEALTH.

Prof. Huxley writes:

When you insist upon the importance of fresh air—especially in combination with exercise—I go heartily with you. I have long been convinced (and to a great extent by personal experience) that what people are pleased to call "overwork" in a large proportion of cases means under-oxygenation and consequent accumulation of waste-matter, which operates as a poison. The "depression" of overworked nervous organization is very commonly the "oppression" of some physiological candle-snuff not properly burned.

Furthermore, it is highly probable that the decaying organic matter given off from the whole free surface of animal bodies, taken in conjunction with its microbial contents, is a source of danger, but whether directly or indirectly is a point about which I should not like to speak confidently.

The fact is, while the virtues of fresh air and the wisdom of physical purity as a prophylactic may be very confidently justified by experience, the theory of the subject is full of difficulties, and the present views of physiologists must be regarded as merely tentative hypotheses. I should not feel justified in putting the theoretical points you advance as safely established truths before the public. I began to mark some paragraphs I thought specially open to objection; but I can not go into the matter, as I am myself struggling out of the influenza poison, which afflicts one's brain with mere muddiness.

Dr. Clifford Allbutt writes:

Whether there be room for question in parts of your argument or not, it is in the main true, and your practical conclusions are as solidly true at they are impressive.

If any one doubt, let him try the marvelous recreation of a few nights camped out sub dio and be converted.

Moreover, the marvelous effects of an open-air life in the cure of such maladies as consumption are known of all men. But is it kind to tell us these dreadful things when we'are helpless to amend them?

Your home solution of the problem is known to your friends, and is excellent in your circumstances, but is impossible in towns, where every inch of window means an inch of grime on walls, ceilings, and furniture. Not only so, but our big common dwelling-halls are gone, our high-backed chairs and settles are gone, our tapestry is gone, and air supplied in modern fashion by slits or pipes means "drafts."

Now, "drafts" will kill some of us as quickly as ptomaines and far more painfully.

Please write another paper to tell us what is to be done!

Dr. W. B. Cheadle writes:

I am sure that you are doing a valuable sanitary service in calling attention to the chronic poisoning by foul air which goes on so constantly without being realized in the homes of both rich and poor, and in business offices and in workshops. The poor suffer from the small, ill -ventilated cubic space available for either sitting-rooms or bedrooms and the crowding of work-rooms; the better classes partly from the close offices in which some of them work, but chiefly from defective bedroom space and ventilation. Few people, I imagine, realize the fact that about one third of their whole lives is spent in their bedrooms, and that they pass this third part of their existence in an atmosphere so poisoned by organic