Monday, July 19, 2010

Pure Air, Pure Water

“In Life Insurance and such like societies, were they instead of having the person examined by the medical man, to have the houses, conditions, ways of life, of these persons examined, at how much truer results would they arrive!” Notes on Nursing (1860), p. 123 by Florence Nightingale

According to Florence Nightingale, “All disease, at some period or other of its course, is more or less a reparative process, not necessarily accompanied with suffering” (7). Back in 1860, Nightingale published Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not. In this little book, she explains how illness is a function of nature to fix up either a long or short term toxic body, most likely from a faulty environment. She holds that poor health is unnoticed until you become ill and that even then, you may not notice your unhealthy physical surroundings. Her hypothesis is still true today.

Nightingale wrote this book at a time when people were already masking true conditions with a foreign substance in order to barge through life as they wished. In this instance, what they called “disinfecting” and “purifying” were measures taken through “fumigating,” which was a process of releasing a scent meant to overpower the smell in the home so people could tolerate their homes. Nightingale writes, “I wish all the disinfecting fluids invented made such an ‘abominable smell’ that they forced you to admit fresh air. That would be a useful invention” (23-4). Back in her time, Nightingale saw five “essential points in securing the health of homes: pure air, pure water, efficient waste drainage, cleanliness, and light” (24). Today, each of these points still holds true, only now we could add constant electromagnetic bombardment to the list.

Air has not gone out of fashion. However, fresh, pure air has become hard to find. People spend their days and nights locked up in offices and rooms relying on heaters and air conditioners, with closed windows blocking out even the cities polluted “fresh” air. Also, air poisoned with carbon monoxide has killed some people due to faulty heaters. Nightingale would be horrified at how drastically our dwelling’s ventilation has deteriorated. Get fresh air!

Pure water is even harder to find whether in a bottle, from the tap, or out of a lake. We have the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowing chemicals and such to remain in our tap water and I am not convinced they are checking bottled water, which did not exist in the past, but something we drink just the same. In fact, the FDA, or local governing bodies, allow chlorine, fluoride, and other additives to pass their inspection and still enter your water. One way to inspect the water in your home is to ask yourself if you smell chlorine when taking a shower? If so, you are having a gas chamber experience. One of the only threats related to bathing in the past was that someone might catch a chill. Now threats include how you are affected by what you have inhaled or absorbed through your skin from the water and the cleanser you use. If you do not have pure water, get a filter to help protect your family from bath, cooking, and drinking water.

Efficient drainage was a concern in the nineteenth century because the end of a pipe that led away from the house was communicating with a nearby sewer, and the other end opened into the house via a sink hole or the “water closet” bowl (toilet). Nightingale’s concern was that fumes were entering the homes, fouling the air. This might still be a concern, though to a lesser extent since today’s drainage constantly flows away from homes from connected pipes, possibly halting a backward flow of fumes. Efficient drainage for us now would include protecting our oceans from the waste and the chemicals used in the sewerage plants. “Efficient drainage” would also now relate to purifying the sewer water of everything, waste and chemicals, before it is recycled back into drinking and tap water.

Cleanliness is not the same issue as before. We can bath more often because it is convenient. We do not have copious dust blowing inside our homes and sticking to the wallpaper, hiding in the rugs and collecting in corners of our homes. We do not have multiple gaslights, as Nightingale calls them, pouring their fumes into the home environment. We do not have those same gaslights consuming the oxygen that eleven men could (20). However, we are under the impression that the cleansers we use on our hair, skin, and household items are safe. Are body and home environments truly clean if smothered in chemicals that we absorb into our skin and inhale into our bodies? Sodium Laureth Sulfate, a common ingredient in detergents and soaps, will damage hair follicles, cause liver toxicity, and can cause skin and eye damage, to name a few negative effects. Cocamidopropyl Betaine, widely used in soaps and cleansers, may cause allergies and is a toxin to the environment and to the immune system. Cocamide DEA, a soap and shampoo thickener, may increase cell death, inhibit cell growth, and lead to miscarriage and cancer. These are just a few of the ingredients you may be ingesting, absorbing, or inhaling in your so-called clean environment. Cleanliness is still an issue.

We may have strong odor and germ killers in our carpet shampoos compared to the past, but they may not be making the house healthier. Also, we have chemicals in the products that “freshen” our air artificially. We use standardized oils, instead of wholesome essential oils, and drip them onto harmful propylene candles instead of beeswax candles. Are environmental toxins in our cleaning products for humans and our homes what Nightingale had in mind for cleanliness? I think not. A modern sick person is not likely to be residing in a chemical-free body and home environment.

As far as light goes, we shut ill and infirm people away from sunlight. Even if a hospital patient, for instance, has a window, it most likely does not open and the light enters through glass, not naturally. Nightingale writes, “It is the unqualified result of all my experience with the sick, that second only to their need for fresh air is their need of light; that, after a close room, what hurts them most is a dark room” (84). She goes on to clarify that “it is not only light but direct sunlight they want,” and beautifully states, “The sun is not a painter (inspiring the spirits), but a sculptor tangibly aiding the body” (84). Nightingale believes the purifying aspect of sunlight is important for recovery and health. She quotes a foreign non-philosopher without naming him or her. This person says, “Where there is sun, there is thought” (86). She equates cellars, the shady sides of hills, and dark, narrow streets and the “degeneracy and weakliness of the human race” hiding out there, with a mind and body deprived of sunlight (87). She says that given the opportunity, both plants and patients will move their leaves and their faces to the light (87). In order to assure continued health, adequate sunlight must interact with you and your home on a regular basis.

Light can also be harmful in the form of artificial lighting. Fluorescent lighting has been accused of being a huge culprit of ill-health in humans. Robert Brennan, at a website cited below says, “Studies worldwide prove that if schools and workplaces were lit with sunlight or full-spectrum bulbs kids would do better in school, and rates of depression and suicide would drop everywhere from college to prison.” Lack of sunlight is probably contributing to ill-health now more than in 1860 because the press maligns the sun, convincing people to avoid it. As a result, people overuse sunscreen and sunglasses, people have a lack of exposure to sunlight without prescription glasses or contacts, and people are constantly under artificial lighting.

In short, your environment is probably harder on your system than Nightingale’s was on hers. If you are experiencing poor health, your home and workplace need to be examined. Do not simply turn to painkillers and such, masking your symptoms as those long ago did with foul smells. Find out where your health and home environment need your attention, thus the root cause of your ills. These five simple, often over-looked points are important even for us in 2010. We have no time to lose.

Please read Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not by Florence Nightingale and the articles at http:/ and for information on fluorescent lighting and on being aware of products even if they use the word “organic.” Also visit for environmentally safe candles.