"AND God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and
let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and
divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were
above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven, And the
evening and the morning were the second day." Genesis 1:6-8
The "Heaven" mentioned here as being created by God on the second
day refers to our atmospheric heaven. It includes the air we breathe, and upon
which life on earth depends. A 12-mile-thick layer wrapped around our planet,
the atmosphere consists of about 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% argon, helium,
carbon dioxide, and other gases. It also harbors a fair amount of water vapor
and an unwarranted amount of pollution. As this mixture is inhaled into the
lungs, about a fifth of the oxygen is retained while the rest is exhaled along
with carbon dioxide and water vapor.
The inside of the lung resembles a sponge. All of these tiny pockets (about
300 million) provide over seventy square yards of surface area for the exchange
of gases in and out of the blood stream. An adult breathes about 16 times per
minute, taking in about one pint of air per breath. This intake adds up to about
2,000 gallons of air per day. During normal breathing this air travels at about
50 miles per hour, but during a sneeze or cough it can reach speeds of 750 miles per hour. The maximum amount of air a person can
inhale and exhale in one breath is called the vital capacity. A good vital
capacity is related to a greater life expectancy. Several factors can affect a
person's vital capacity: smoking, air pollution, posture, exercise, obesity, and
For the person who smokes, the dangers are listed on the cigarette packages
themselves. Lung cancer, emphysema, and carbon monoxide poisoning are among
them. With every puff of smoke the air passageways narrow, making it more
difficult to breathe. The cilia are paralyzed, thus preventing them from doing
their job of cleansing the lungs. Mucus-clogged and irritated air passageways
are ripe for emphysema and bronchitis. Carbon monoxide reduces the
oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Nicotine constricts the blood vessels,
elevates the blood pressure and heart rate, and irritates the heart itself. In
pregnant women these poisons cross the placenta and harm the fetus.
Cancer-producing tars blacken the lungs. Marijuana smoke has many of the same
health-damaging effects, plus some that are unique. Its active ingredient, THC,
stays in the body longer than any other drug. With continued use it builds up in
the fatty tissues, especially in the brain and in the gonads.
Cigarette smoke is also one of the main indoor-air pollutants. Those
regularly exposed to second-hand smoke over an extended period of time are put
at a significant risk for developing the same diseases and sharing some of the
same physical impairments as the smoker. Small children, pregnant and lactating
women, the elderly, and these with respiratory or heart diseases are the most
vulnerable, and may not even be able to tolerate minimal exposure. These persons
are also the ones most likely to be affected by other types of indoor pollution.
With the awareness of the energy crisis, one of the adaptations in society
was to "weatherize" homes. Tighter living quarters decrease the
exchange rate between inside and outside air. Weatherizing is good for keeping
the heat in, but it also keeps in polluted air.
Natural-gas ovens, hair sprays, disinfectants, cleaning materials, wall
paint, floor wax, cigarette smoke, radon, insecticides, urea-formaldehyde foam
insulation, particle-board construction, new furniture, and carpets are but a
few of the sources of the fumes, gases, and particles that are emitted inside
our homes. Solutions to the problem fall into three categories:
The best solution is the removal or alteration of the problem at its source.
For example: replace unvented kerosene heaters with electric heaters; quit
smoking; et cetera.
The second solution is to increase the ventilation, which involves the
sacrifice of some energy efficiency. One solution to this problem is to not
overheat your home in the first place and to put on more clothing. One should
keep several windows around the home open a few inches to ensure that a good
supply of fresh air is in circulation and that the bad air can get out.
Bacteria, molds, fungi, house mites, and other disease-producing organisms have
a hard time multiplying in rooms that are kept well-aired and sunned. The most
comfortable temperature and relative humidity are 76-8O F and 40-50%
respectively in summer and 72-76 F and 20-35% respectively in winter. Make sure
your ceiling, walls, and floor are adequately insulated to minimize as much
unnecessary heat loss as possible. Energy conservation need not be at the
expense of one's health. Also to ensure a supply of fresh air while sleeping in
bed, open the windows in another room and keep your bedroom door open. Thus the
fresh night air can get in without your being in a draft and getting chilled. Of
course, if it is warm outside you should keep the windows wide open. Homes that
are located in "low spots" or are surrounded by dense vegetation may
lack sunlight (driving up the heating requirements) and they do not get as much
fresh-air circulation around them. Bedding and clothing should be aired out
often. Clothesline drying is advantageous, as it freshens and further cleans the
clothes and saves money.
The third move toward cleaner air indoors is the use of air-cleaning
machines. There are various kinds--electrostatic, charcoal filtration, and
negative ionization. Each may have its place in today's polluted world. Each has
its advantages and disadvantages (electrostatic and negative ionization may emit
some ozone.) Do your own research before you invest. Is the unit big enough to
do the job? Is the expense warranted?
How do you know if you have an air pollution problem inside your home? The
symptoms may include head-ache; dizziness, cough, irritation of the eyes, nose,
and/or throat, runny nose, difficulty in breathing, chest and/or abdominal pain,
nausea, difficulty sleeping, diarrhea, and rashes. Only certain individuals may
be affected. Since this list of symptoms contains some rather common complaints,
a physician should be consulted.
But what if the outside air is polluted too? Unfortunately, this is a real
problem in big cities and some other areas. About 150-200 million tons of
pollutants are pumped into the air every year in this country alone. Some types
of air pollution come from evaporation, others from attrition (things grinding
or wearing down). Most come from combustion. Heating units, power plants,
incinerators, and industry are major sources of air pollution, but the number
one cause is vehicular exhaust. Jets, airplanes, trains, buses, and automobiles
have revolutionized transportation and our entire society. And they have ruined
the air in many places in the process. Three out of five people in this country
live in areas that do not meet the health standards set up by The Clean Air Act
Effects of air pollution include eye irritation, respiratory symptoms and
diseases, headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, sore throat, chest pain,
and nausea. The risks of major illness, all respiratory diseases, and colds go
up. Susceptible persons may die during smog alerts. In addition to hurting
people and animals, smog can kill plants and trees, and damage stone, metal, and
During a smog alert it is best to stay indoors, where there is about 50% less
smog. Use air conditioners and recycle indoor air. Get more rest and sleep.
Avoid cigarettes and unnecessary driving.
If you live in the city, the early morning hours usually have the cleanest
air. It is also a good idea to take advantage of clear days by getting outdoors.
The best way to escape air pollution is to live in the country. ~ give you an
idea as to the potential differences in air quality, mid-Pacific ocean air
contains about 15,000 particles per cubic inch of air as compared to 5,000,000
in big cities. In summary: "When the air is bad, try not to breathe
There is something else that makes fresh air fresh besides oxygen and the
absence of pollutants, and that is the type of ionization in the air. Ions are
tiny, electrified particles of matter. Fresh air may contain between 2-3 million
ions in each breath, which is 5-10 times more than stale air. (Oxygen usually
carries a negative charge and carbon dioxide a positive charge.) Aerospace
research and experience has suggested that air ionization is in itself a health
factor apart from the oxygen content alone.
We do not yet understand how it works, but numerous studies have associated
negative ions, specifically negatively ionized oxygen, with several health
benefits. These include an increased rate and quality of growth in plants and in
animals, dilation of the air passageways and improvement in the cleansing action
of the lungs, heart rate, blood pressure, and metabolic rate. Mentally, one can
experience a sense of exhilaration, or become more relaxed and mildly
tranquilized. Hay fever and asthma symptoms may improve. Tumor growth was slowed
in laboratory animals. Rats learned twice as fast. Positively charged air, on
the other hand, produced the opposite responses and tends to be associated with
headaches, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue.
Negative ions are lost as they adhere to walls, fabric materials, and
air-conditioning ducts; tobacco smoke, smog and crowds of people tend to use
them up, too. Radiation from space, air, rocks, and even some soils adds
negative ions back into the air, as do sunshine, living green trees, and the
breakup of water droplets, as occurs around waterfalls and the ocean surf.
Now that we've cleared the air, there is one more thing to do, and that is to
breathe properly. Breathe in and out through the nose as much as possible. The
nasal mucosa moisturizes, filters, and warms the air as it is breathed in. As it
is breathed out some heat and moisture is returned to the membranes to affect
the next breath.
Oxygen is the most crucial element for our survival. We can survive weeks
without food, days without water; but only minutes without oxygen. Yet because
of shallow breathing habits we can deny ourselves optimal levels of oxygen for
better health. Early signs of insufficient oxygen are impaired judgment and
memory, dulling of intellect, and a tendency to impatience and irritability.
Slow, deep abdominal breathing is the correct way to breathe. This type of
breathing is better understood if it is demonstrated. Any respiratory therapist
would be delighted to show you. Basically, it involves using the diaphragm to
"suck" air into the lower portion of the lungs and the abdominal
muscles to "push" it out. One way to check yourself is to lie down
with a book on your stomach. Now breathe in such a way as to make the book go up
and down each time you inhale and exhale.
Good posture while sitting and standing is necessary for proper breathing.
There are several exercises that can help your posture. Bend your elbows and try
to touch your shoulder blades together in back. Lie on your hack and try to
flatten your lower back to the floor by tilting your pelvis. Pretend a string is
attached to (he top of your head, pulling your head slightly up and back. This
eases stress on your lungs and vocal cords. Hold your arms straight out to the
sides and make little circles, then raise them straight up and reach for the
Many people are forced to stoop or sit for much of the day. This usually
makes for poor posture and causes many back problems. Maintaining good posture,
taking stretch breaks often, and getting exercise whenever you can will help. A
good aerobic exercise program combined with muscle toning and stretching
exercises is necessary for good health besides being an aid to proper breathing
and maintaining a strong set of lungs.
Tight clothing around the chest or abdomen makes proper breathing difficult,
as does restrictive clothing that does not allow the free movement of the arms above the head.
Normal deep breathing aids digestion by massaging the abdominal organs. Blood
is assisted in its return to the chest by the negative pressure that is
developed with each deep breath. This pressure helps to reduce the chances of
congestion headaches, the pooling of blood in the legs, and aids in the
digestive process. Deep breathing gets more oxygen into the blood with each
breath, allowing the heart to slow down a little.
A good habit is to go outside in the fresh air and take 1~20 slow, deep,
abdominal breaths after each meal and just before retiring for the night. And as
we enjoy this time of relaxation, we can give thanks to our Creator God
"that giveth breath unto the people." Remembering that "He giveth
to all life, and breath, and all things." So, "let every thing that
hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD." Isaiah 42:5; Acts 17:25;