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Air and its Relation to Life


OF all the so-called improvements which have been effected from time to time in the means by which we make ourselves comfortable and render ourselves independent of the limitations which nature would impose upon us—perhaps the introduction of gas was hailed and has been looked upon as among the greatest. It wants but little experience, however, of the manner in which people live in towns, to convince us that the reverse of this is the case, and that the pain and misery which it has been the means of inflicting must far outweigh its advantages. If anyone doubts this let him examine his sensations in a morning, after having spent the previous evening in a close room blazing with gas, and compare them with what he feels after having spent the corresponding hours in the open air, or in a fresh room moderately lighted with oil or candles. There are but few people to whom such experience would not show that the effect of the gas was a feeling of lassitude and depression, if not a downright headache; and if they were to repeat the experiment, who would not suffer a general loss of tone. Yet wherever gas is to be procured this is precisely the misery to which people subject themselves. In nine out of ten houses in the neighbourhood of towns, if one goes from the fresh air into a room in which the people are sitting on a winter evening, the first breath is enough to suffocate one, and yet the people within the room are entirely unconscious; they may be more or less restless and depressed, but as this is their normal state they do not recognise the cause. In this way, to say nothing of what takes place in theatres and places of amusement, the evils which gas is answerable for are incalculable, though if they could be estimated they must far outweigh the blessings which accrue from the abundance and cheapness of its light.

Air and its Relation to Life.

By Walter Noel Hartley, Demonstrator of Chemistry, and Lecturer on Chemistry in the Evening Class Department, King's College, London. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1875.)

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