( Originally Published 1904 )
"The tissues are continually feeding on the life giving oxygen. . . . In fact, the life of the tissues is dependent upon a continual succession of oxidations and deoxidations." Albert F. Blaisdell, M.D.
You go into the average homes of today and I venture to say that there is not five percent, and in some cities not one percent, of such that are supplied with a sufficient quantity of pure air. For instance, in our physical culture restaurants, it would be absolutely impossible for us to ventilate them as we should like to do because we would not have any customers in winter. This fear of moving fresh air, of a draught, is everywhere. It would be only the most enthusiastic physical culturists who would patronize a restaurant that was properly ventilated.
All through the last cold winter I slept with my windows open; not two or three inches, but as far as I could get them open, and I have two windows on each side of the bed. The wind blew directly on and over me, and I am far better able to do my work be-cause I have pure oxygen to breathe. My offices are not ventilated in this thorough manner, because I don't believe 1 could find enough physical culture enthusiasts to work for me in such an office as I desire. But the time is not far distant when every office and every house will be so ventilated that fresh air will be supplied plentifully. We have no right to breathe air that is not as pure as the outside atmosphere.
Then, too, consider the temperature of the average home. We find it running up to 70 and sometimes to 80 degrees,—absolutely torrid atmospheres. Also, if the atmosphere outside is at zero, and you go from such a house into the cold air, you experience a change of 80 degrees in temperature, and I tell you that such a radical change is injurious in the extreme.
Go along the streets of New York City, or of any other city on a fairly cold day, and look for an open window. You will have a difficult task. It will be extremely difficult to find one.
There is some-thing else in reference to the heating of your living rooms that is understood but little by the average individual. For in-stance, your body adapts itself to the particular heat to which it has been accustomed. IF you live in rooms of a temperature of 70 degrees, your body will regulate its supply of caloric so as to make you comfortable. If the temperature is 50, 60 or 80 degrees, exactly the little the ordinary human being appreciates the value of,or the necessity for pure air.
That shows you how same condition prevails. In other words, it is largely a matter of habit as to how much heat you need in order to keep warm.
One recent winter, merely for experimental purposes, I wore a summer suit with no underwear. I am glad that it wasn't a particularly cold winter, but I believe that such extreme experiments are necessary, for they are not comfortable, at least in their preliminary stages. Yet they show that excessive clothing is merely a habit and that most of our winter garments are superfluities.
I must say that I became so inured to wearing these clothes that I hardly noticed the cold after the first month of the experience, though when I went out at first, it felt as though I had no clothes on whatsoever. It seemed as if the wind blew right onto my body, and I was badly tempted to "back out." Later, how-ever, I became accustomed to it. Now I do not believe that such extreme experiments are necessary, for they are not comfortable, at least in their preliminary stages. Yet they show that excessive clothing is merely a habit and that most of our winter garments are superfluities.
We should all remember that air is fit to breathe but once only. Not only do we exhale carbonic-acid gas but organic matter and micro-organisms are also given off by the lungs. Science tells us that even air of average purity contains a goodly percent-age of micro-organism to every one hundred cubic feet of air; and in enclosed rooms, where the air has become vitiated from breathing and re-breathing, 'they are increased a thousand fold.
And still they talk about contagious diseases. In all our public conweyances we have signs, "Don't spit on the floor," because the sputum dries and you are supposed to acquire the particular disease of the individual who has offended in this respect. Yet you board an average street car and there are thousands and millions of these micro-organisms, which you breathe in by the hundreds with every breath. If you could possibly contract dis-
ease through their medium, I don't believe that there would he a healthy man remaining in a big city within twenty-four hours.
When you go into a smoking room you get a vivid illustration of how air is breathed over and showing another method of securing pure air.
Widely over again, you see it curling open the it as and sleep as near t to o it. as possible. Do not adopt around; in some instances it is so this extreme method too suddenly thick you cannot see it curl, and you realize that every particle of the smoke-laden atmosphere has been in some one's mouth, and in some one's lungs, over and over again. It is so with the air in every closed room. Such apartments contain millions of micro-organisms and you are breathing and re-breathing them constantly.
You would not desire to wash in water which someone else has already used. Why should you wish to breathe the air that someone else has already breathed, and which has thus become poisoned'? I hate to go to the theatre for the reason that I have to breathe someone else's breath, and sometimes it doesn't smell very good at that!
The average gas light of twenty candle power will use as much air as three or four men, therefore, if you have a light of this kind, you must be supplied with an added proportion of air.
I do not say that anyone not accustomed to living as I do should go to extremes without due preparation. But gradually acquire the habit of living in a room where the air freely circulates. Don't be afraid of draughts. I say that draughts are a delusion. I have asked a number of physicians to explain to me why a draught was so pernicious, and have never had a satisfactory explanation. Some will say that a draught is a current of cold air in a warm room. That is about the most satisfactory explanation I could get, and it was never satisfactory to me, be-cause very warm rooms are too warm anyway.
The average American who goes to England will almost freeze to death. T have heard Englishmen complain of the heat at 65 degrees, simply because they are accustomed to cool air. I have said that the body can become habituated to almost any temperature. If you have been accustomed to 70 degrees, and change gradually and slowly to a temperature of 60, you will be just as comfortable. If you have been used to living in a temperature of 60, and lower it by easy stages to 50 degrees, you will find yourself quite as much at your ease as you were before.
I admit that in cold rooms, you may rightly add somewhat to your clothing, but it is a thousand times better to do that and breathe fresh air, than it is to heat your room by hermetically sealing it and so breathe the same air over and over again.
Of course it will take the air in a large room much longer to become vitiated than that in a small room. You take a small room of, say, about twelve by fifteen feet, and in order to keep the air in it of satisfactory purity, it ought to be renewed absolutely every half hour. And I think that the safest way of insuring atmospheric purity is to raise your windows as high as you can, especially during sleeping hours.
I remember, not long ago, hearing a story about an Italian family, or rather several families who lived in a tenement. They all occupied one room, not especially large. There were five families, one in each corner, while the fifth family camped out in the center of the room. Now, this is no exaggeration, for you will find conditions identical with this in New York City. And I understand they got along with .comparative satisfaction until the family in the center began to. take in boarders and then there was an objection raised. I don't blame them for objecting, for I venture to say that on cold days every window of the room was shut as tightly as. possible.