Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/395

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
389
STUFFY ROOMS

of trawlers reeking with fish and oil, and for the sake of warmth shut themselves up until the lamp may go out from want of oxygen. The stench of such surrounding may effectually put the sensitive, untrained brain worker off his appetite, but the robust health of the fisherman proves that this effect is nervous in origin, and not due to a chemical organic poison in the air.

Ventilation can not get rid of the source of a smell, while it may easily distribute the evil smell through a house. As Pettenkofer says, if there is a dung-heap in a room, it must be removed. It is no good trying to blow away the smell.

Flügge and his school bring convincing evidence to show that a stuffy atmosphere is stuffy owing to heat stagnation, and that the smell has nothing to do with the origin of the discomfort felt by those who endure it. The inhabitants of reeking hovels in the country do not suffer from chronic ill-health, unless want of nourishment, open-air exercise, or sleep come into play. Town workers who take no exercise in the fresh air are pale, anemic, listless. Sheltered by houses they are far less exposed to winds, and live day and night in a warm, confined atmosphere.

The widespread belief in the presence of organic poisons in the expired air is mainly based on the statements of Brown Sequard and D'Arsenval, statements wholly unsubstantiated by the most trustworthy workers in Europe and America. These statements have done very great mischief to the cause of hygiene, for they led ventilating engineers and the public to seek after chemical purity, and neglect the attainment of adequate coolness and movement of the air. It was stated that the condensation water obtained from expired air is poisonous when injected into animals. The evidence on which this statement is based is not only not worthy of credence but is absurd, e. g., condensation water has been injected into a mouse in a quantity equivalent to injecting 5 kilograms into a man weighing 60 kilograms. No proper controls were carried out. It is recognized now that any distilled water contaminated by bacterial products may have a toxic effect. Flack and I have for fourteen weeks kept guinea-pigs and rats confined together in a box and poorly ventilated, so that they breathed air containing 0.5 to 1.0 per cent, of . The guinea-pigs proved wholly free from anaphylactic shock on injecting rat's serum. Therefore they were not sensitized by breathing the exhaled breath of the rats for many weeks, and we are certain that no foreign protein substance is absorbed in this way. It has been proved by others, and by us, that animals so confined do well so long as they are well fed and their cages kept clean, light, cool and dry. It is wholly untrue that they are poisoned by breathing each other's breath. The only danger arises from droplet contagion in cases of infective disease.