Through the years, body odor and tobacco smoke were the prime factors in assessing the perceived quality of the indoor air. Cleanliness has not always been next to Godliness. The decline in the practice of bathing during the Middle Ages, which persisted through the Renaissance, can be attributed to the attitude of the Christians toward cleanliness.

The Church attacked the preoccupation with body comfort and attractiveness offered by bathing as tending toward sin. The “odor of sanctity” prevailed and lice were called “pearls of God.” St. Paul is said to have observed, “The purity of the body and its garments means the impurity of the soul.”

More frequently the lack of personal hygiene during the Renaissance was an economic concern. Poor people worked and slept in the only clothing they owned. While the rich owned more changes of clothes, there is little evidence that they were laundered between wearings.

This historical perspective helps explain the current emphasis upon the occupant as the primary pollution source. This has resulted in occupant population driven ventilation rates.

Smoking tobacco has alternately been accepted and rejected by society and the law. King James I was the first to denounce the habit as a “corruption of health and manners.” During the 17th century, most of Europe severely penalized or forbade the consumption of tobacco. In 1911, 14 states prohibited cigarettes for moral and/or health reasons.

Today these concerns are reflected in the prohibitions governing the sale of tobacco to minors, advertising restrictions, and the increasing limitations on areas where smoking is permitted. Many locales have demonstrated their concerns about the potential health effects of tobacco smoke by severely restricted smoking practices in public access buildings, especially following the aborted OSHA ruling in 1994.

Communicable disease followed a similar historical path as cleanliness and bathing. Yet, knowing nothing about bacteria, virus, and other pathogens, early settlers found that swamps brought disease and conversely, clean mountain air purged the body of fatal “consumption.”

This led to the development of sanitariums for TB rehabilitation and the use of high ventilation rates in health care facilities that were highly congested and contaminated with communicable pathogens. These three indoor air quality factors, body odor, communicable Smoke which refers to the side stream fumes and the exhaled smoke from the active smoker that becomes part of the common breathing air stream), strongly influence our standards today.

The need for fresh air has historically been measured in the need to counteract these human-generated pollutants; thus, the common ventilation requirements are for so many cubic feet of air per minute per occupant. The sources of many contaminants today; e.g., building materials, combustion, cleaning supplies, etc. have very little relationship to the number of occupants in a building.

As we move into more modern times, it becomes clear that indoor air quality has had its own “Back to the Future” scenario. With the development of the first nuclear powered submarine in 1954, submarines suddenly had the capability to remain submerged for weeks (or months) at a time. This required a means of controlling, cleaning and revitiating the quality of indoor air.

Through the use of special ventilation and filter systems, air conditioning, chilled water systems, main oxygen supply, CO2 removal, CO-H2 burners and atmosphere analyzing systems, the internal air in a modern submarine can be maintained at a designated quality level. The designers of the Nautilus’ environmental system were ahead of today’s building designers by nearly half a century.

More recently these advancements have again been illustrated by the space shuttles in which comfortable and safe environments have been designed, installed, and maintained in outer space. Thus, the technology currently exists to create acceptable and safe indoor environments without access to fresh outdoor air.

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