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All scientific men acknowledge the necessity of ventilating dwelling-houses and buildings such as are herein mentioned, but with the general public it is unfortunately far otherwise, and one of the greatest difficulties to be encountered in the progress towards a complete and perfect sanitary condition is this inertia of those most interested. Difficulties are, however, only made to be overcome, and it is in the hope of doing something, however little, towards overcoming this particular difficulty that I venture to trespass further on the patience of the reader, and I propose to confine these remarks to the sanitary condition of our houses as being the subject of most immediate importance to the general public, for ventilation of such structures as factories, railway tunnels, and sewers, though of great moment, must be left in the hands of the Engineer who designs them, each case being treated upon its own merits and with due regard to its peculiarities. All the public can do in such instances is to insist that there shall be ventilation of some sort.
All persons readily admit as a truism, that they cannot live without air, but, unfortunately, they seldom get much beyond the bare admission. Air is not treated by them as a substance requiring space as solids or liquids do, and means of passage into, or out of, rooms, churches, etc., just as much as water requires pipes or channels to allow it to flow into or out of reservoirs. With most persons air seems to be an abstract idea rather than a substance of vital consequence to the whole living creation. I have stated in the
paper that air, which has once passed through the lungs is unfit to be respired again, just as unfit as any other substance which has once passed through the system is to be used, as it were, over again. So that, were there no other source of contamination to the air of a building, ventilation would be rendered necessary by the very presence of living beings. As it is, however, there are so many other evil influences at work in most houses and other buildings that the necessity is made far more absolute.
It is usually only in times of panic, caus
ed by the approach or presence of some fearful epidemic, or of a calamity such as last year threatened this nation, that people seriously turn their attention to sanitary matters, and at times like these they accept the wildest schemes and act upon the crudest notions until, finding matters are no better, and perhaps rather worse than: before, and the fright beginning to wear off, they relapse into carelessness, and vote sanitary science all nonsense. I think defective education is responsible for a great deal of this. I do not intend to assert that the generality of people, at any rate in the upper and middle classes, are what is commonly called ignorant; probably most of those who would be willing to turn their attention to sanitary matters, not being professionally engaged in them, have had at least the usual amount of education, as the term is commonly understood. The three R's are familiar to them as are also mathematics, Greek, and Latin, and they can probably converse in one or more of the modern languages, but what may be called the science of living, i.e., how life is sustain
ed, and the reasons why sanitary matters should be so carefully attended to in order that health and strength may be insured, are things of which comparatively few know anything at all.
In this paper I wish to impress upon the reader the very great importance of pure air to the human body, and to show how such air, or as pure as the district affords, may be insured in our houses.
It has been stated before, that one of the elements of the atmosphere unites in our bodies with certain of the elements composing the food we eat. This union of elements is a true combustion, though a slow one, as true and real as the combustion of coals in a fire grate.
Our food, having been decomposed in the body, is brought into a state proper for sustaining life and animal heat in us when, as venous blood, it is submitted to the purifying action of oxygen brought into the body by the lungs. Without the element, oxygen, which I have before stated forms part of the atmosphere, this purification could never take place, for the other
gases have no power of the kind. It will be obvious upon consideration that if a portion of oxygen in the air we have breathed has united with elements composing our food, that portion is removed from the atmosphere and must be replaced if breathing is to be continued.
I will here explain for the benefit of persons who may be wholly unacquainted with chemistry, what is meant by the term "element." The ancients held that there were four elements, or simple bodies, viz., earth, air, fire and water, but the progress of chemical knowledge soon revealed the fact that these were not elementary bodies at all, three of them being compound, while the fourth, fire, may be more properly described as a condition of matter. An element is a body which cannot, as far as we know, be divided or decomposed. It is unalterable and indestructible, and is therefore called a simple body or element.
Elements, however, combine with one another, and lose their individuality, so to speak, in the compound. Thus two simple bodies, gases, hydrogen and oxygen, unite