Subject: Re.Vapors
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Thu, 4 May 1995 11:51:53 LCL

Interestingly enough, the term "vapors" seems to arise from the
medieval belief that bad smells and bad air were what caused diseases;
for example, "malaria" comes from the roots "mal" (bad) and "aria"
(air, not Pavarotti).

Although the "germ theory" of disease pretty much put the kibosh on
this notion, it's worth noting that there was a grain of sense in what
the medievals believed, and that totally erasing the idea from our
mental vocabulary was a case of throwing the baby out with the
bathwater. For example, "sick building syndrome" is most commonly
caused by inadequate ventilation (e.g., buildup of carbon monoxide and
dioxide), and anyone who has seen the effects of nitrous oxide
(laughing gas, but also a dental anaesthetic) can't quarrel too
strongly with the existence and effects of "malaria". THere are a few
additional cases of medically bizarre harmful vapours, but I won't go
into them in such a tasteful forum.

--Geoff Hart #8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: These comments are my own and don't represent the opinions
of the Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada.

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