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are subjected. If our worthy cousin, the Stomach, digests food, we have to digest air; and our province is quite as indispensable as his to health and life. We belong to a young lady, whom we have always endeavored to serve faithfully; but the trials, the injuries, the privations, to which she has exposed us, surpass all calculation.
2. Our principal business, as everybody knows, is to purify the blood by subjecting it to the action of the Oxygen of the • atmosphere. It is upon the blood that the body depends for its
existence, from moment to moment; and it is Oxygen which gives to the blood its healthy properties and bright color, and removes from it its impurities. The combination of the carbon of the blood with Oxygen in the Lungs produces the evolution of heat; the necessary warmth of the body is thus maintained and distrihuted, by means of the circulating blood, from the Lungs to every fart. Besides this important function as expurgator of the blood, we have to carry off an incalculable quantity of waste animal matter and superfluous moisture, which, without our agency, would be productive of disease and pain.
3. How we accomplish all this we shall not stop to describe. There are books enough which will explain to your satisfaction the whole process, and which will prove to you some wonderful facts in regard to the tasks that we are put to. What will you say, for instance, when we tell you that the amount of blood sent to us, to refine and vitalize, at every pulsation of the heart, is about two ounces? Will you believe it when we tell you that, with every breath, we inhale about one pint of air; making eighteen pints of air inhaled every minute ? Such is the fact; and a little ciphering will show you that, every twenty-four hours, we inhale sixty hogsheads of air, and give passage to thirty hogsheads of blood!
4. After this assertion (which you can easily verify), we hope you will listen to what we have to say with a little attention and respect. You need not be told that the act of breathing is essential to organic life. Exclusion of atmospheric air from the lungs for the space of three minutes will generally cause death. Breathing consists of two actions : inspiration, or drawing in the air; and expiration, or forcing out the air. Now, why is breathing essential to life? Simply because the blood could not be so purified as to be rendered fit to support life without being subjected to the action of the air continually pumped into our reservoirs by the act of respiration. The blood comes in from the neart of a purple color, and in a heterogeneousEl state, unfit for he nutrition of the animal body. We send it back to the heart,
purified and transmuted by the Oxygen of the air into a homogeneousei fluid of a bright-red color.
5. But if the air we inhale is thus made to part with its Oxygen, has the air we exhale undergone no change in our ser. vice? Of course it has — a very important change! You may easily test the fact. Put a piece of quill into the nozle of a pair of bellows, cause the bellows to blow into a cup of lime-water, and you will find no change in the appearance of the latter; for through the bellows the same kind of air which we require to inhale is blown in. But put the quill into your mouth, and blow into the lime-water, and you will gee it become turbid and white, and, if allowed to stand, a fine white powder will fall to the bottom. The reason is, the air which you have blown into the water has passed through your Lungs, and parted with its Oxygen, and its place has been supplied by another and a compound gas, known as Carbonic Acid.
6. We hope we are not growing tedious; but we here wish you to be distinctly impressed with the fact that the air which we take in is a very different article from that which we give out. The air we take in is a compound gas, of whose weight Nitrogen forms four-fifths and Oxygen one-fifth. The air we give out contains about eight per cent. more Carbonic Acid than it had when we inhaled it, and its Oxygen is diminished in the proportion necessary to form this acid. If the same air be respired over and over several times, all its Oxygen is consumed, and the air becomes loaded with Carbonic Acid gas.
7. Now, pray remember this: unmixed Carbonic Acid gas when inhaled is a deadly poison; and even when mixed with a large quantity of atmospheric air, it is pernicious to health in proportion to its amount beyond a certain quantity. Thrust a lighted candle into a jar full of it, and the flame will be extinguished. An ignorance of its poisonous quality, and of the importance of continuous fresh supplies of Oxygen, has often led to the destruction of life. In the year 1797, the master of a small vessel belonging to Southampton, in England, had seventy passengers collected in the hold during a storm. Thinking to make them more secure, he spread a tarpaulinel over the hatches and battened it down. On opening the hold, all the passengers were found dead! The air being shut out, all the Oxygen had been consumed, and the deadly Carbonic Acid had been generated in its place. The master who had brought about this immense loss of life, through ignorance of the effects of foul air, became mad, and died soon after.
8. The same catas'trophë was repeated, December 22d, 1848, on board the steamer Londonderry, from Sligo, bound for Amer
ica vian Liverpool. Into a space about eighteen feet long bg ten or twelve in width, one hundred and fifty human beings were packed. It was ventilated by only one opening, the com panion-way, as it is called ; and, for fear that the water would get admission, this åperture was at length closed, and a tar. paulin nailed over it. In the darkness and heat and loathsomeness of their airless prison, the wretched inmates shrieked for aid ; but the boisterousness of the storm was such that they could not make themselves heard by those on deck. When at lengta an opening was made, it was found that the foor was covered with dead bodies to the depth of some feet. Seventytwo men, women, and children, perished on this occasion, through the ignorance of the captain and mate of the facts that we have been endeavoring to impress upon you!
9. Perhaps you will cry out against this most culpable ignorance. Alas! every day we witness instances of similar heedlessness, which, if not so instantly fatal, do undoubtedly operate to undermine the health and shorten the lives of thousands. In the sleeping-room, the parlor, the school-room, the church, and the hall of assembly, men, women, and children, are too often subjected to the inhalation of an atmosphere partially poisoned, the effect of which must unavoidably be mischievous in a greater or less degree. We have sometimes wished that air might become dyed of a different color after having been used, that those who live in a perpetual terror of fresh air might see the poisonous atmosphere to which they condemn themselves. It would seem as if some people were so in the habit of avoiding pure air, that if you were to shut them up in a bottle they would call out to you to put in the cork !
CLXX. — THE COMPLAINT OF A PAIR OF LUNGS.
PART SECOND. 1. AHEM! It is our mistress's fault, and not ours, if we occasionally are obliged to stop in order to cough. We had almost forgotten our own private grievances in speaking of the general suffering to our fraternity resulting from an insufficient supply of pure air. We were born into what we may not improperly style “ this breathing world” a very healthy and perfect pair of Lungs. But we had not been in it long, before the nurse to whom our young lady had been confided caused us great suffering by covering her with blankets and
shawls so as to exclude the pure air, thus introducing into our Laboratory air which had already lost a good part of its Oxygen, and which was wholly unfit for our purposes. The emanations of the skin also, being confined by superfluous swathings, gave new force to our first and worst enemy, Carbonic Acid, and contributed to weaken and perplex us in our operations.
2. Many infants in our neighborhood died under a similar course of mal-'z satment, having been almost smothered under the coverlid, in a room the atmosphere of which had been vitiated by the presence of a number of visitors. It is a wonder that our young lady survived as she did. We made the most, however, of the little Oxygen we managed to got, and kept up a vigilant warfare against Carbonic Acid until the summer came, and open windows and out-of-door exercise fed us with invigorating drafts, and enabled us to overcome the tendencies to disease which an impure atmosphere had generated.
3. No sooner had we escaped the perils of infancy, however, than our little mistress was placed at a school where we had to undergo a new series of trials. Some twenty pupils were kept five hours a day in an apartment, about sixteen feet long by fourteen wide, the windows and doors of which were carefully closed. By an accurate arithmetical calculation, we convinced ourselves that, supposing the room to be filled with fresh air when the pupils entered, it would be all used up in just three minutes afterwards, at the end of which time we poor Lungs had to inhale the waste animal matter and Carbonic Acid with which the atmosphere was loaded. Languor, irritability, and dulness of the intellect, were the sure result; and then the chil. 'dren were rapped over the knuckles for faults which a little fresh air would have prevented.
4. Persons entering, and inhaling the air thus exhausted and corrupted, would often complain of the oppressive and offensive smell. But the schoolmistress could never be made to believe that anything was wrong. She had been accustomed to it so long that she did not perceive it. The sensibility of her lungs and nostrils had become blunted. Then she had false notions about taking cold. A current of air upon the heated body is to be avoided, as everybody knows; but taking cold is often the result of the depression of the vital powers by the absence of pure air, so that when the individual goes forth into the cold There is not sufficient reactive energy to fortify him against the effect of a change of temperature. Depressed and weakened by a want of its natural stimulus, Oxygen, the system is unprepared to meet the emergency to which it is exposed.
5. Well: no sooner had we weathered one danger than we had to combat another. Our young lady was sent to a board. ing-school; and here we not only had to inhale a foul atmos. phere during school-hours, but at night we were shut up in a sleeping-room where five or six other pairs of Lungs were at work oxygenizing blood. O, the state of that room in the morning! If our old enemy, Carbonic Acid, did not have it all to himself, he was in a fair way to arrive at the supreme domin. ion, and to murder us in our beds. Our friend and ally, Oxygen, would be almost entirely driven from the field. Faint and panting, it would be sometimes with an effort that he could striko a last blow in our defence. O! when will people learn that ventilation, or the means of supplying fresh air to the Lungs, is as necessary as the supply of food to the Stomach ?
6. At length our young lady, who, to do her justice, was studious and capable, left school. She had become very accomplished in instrumental music, drawing, and several of the sciences; could speak French and Italian; but, alas! knew little of the commonest laws of health -- not enough to take care that we had fair play in our efforts to serve her. In reading aloud and singing she was not half as successful as she might have been — owing simply to the delicate state into which we had been thrown by impure air, and the lack of plentiful out-of. door exercise. An awful trial now awaited us. She entered society, and her dress-maker persuaded her that an “hour-glass waist” would set off her figure to advantage. How odiously false was the advice! Every person of taste looks with pity or disgust upon the unnatural constraints employed to disfigure the body, and destroy its symmetry.
7. However, we were obliged to submit. The chest, in which we are enclosed, now being restricted to unnatural limits, the volume of air inhaled was necessarily diminished, and thus there was an insufficient quantity of Oxygen to vitalize the blood, even though we might be in a well-ventilated apartment, or in the open air! But the evil was aggravated when our mistress began to pass her evenings in hot and badly-ventilated ballrooms or concert-rooms. Then what torments, what discouragements, did we poor Lungs have to undergo ! How often would we sigh, “0, for a long, deep draft of Oxygen!” When will people consider that to produce ventilation there must be two constant currents; one outward, carrying off the foul air, and one inward, bringing in pure air? It is absurd to provide means for the admission of fresh air by a furnace or otherwise, unless there be some avenue for the foul air to escape.
8. By the end of our eighteenth winter, we were in such a diseased state that the doctor was called in. He sounded us