What is “fresh air”? Is air not just air?

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What is “fresh air”? Is air not just air?

In: Earth Science
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Sometimes “fresh air” is used to talk about the presence of nature and the benefits it brings us.

Saying simply “air” can be confusing when we live in an urban world and pollution is present, which lowers our quality of life.

Air near human habitat, especially big industrial cities, has higher concentrations of co2, smoke, nitrogen oxides, smog etc. When we go away from it to the country or to a mountain, we sense (and smell) the difference and we call it fresh air

Also, if your locked up in a room, even a room thats recirculating air through an ac unit or the like, the air can start to feel “stale” or “stuffy”. This is when you have people saying “open the window and let in some fresh air” in which you are simply cycling out the old stuffy air with “fresh” air.

The concept of “fresh air” is a Victorian one. The Victorians were terrified of suffocating in their houses – even though studies have shown that their houses were far more draughty than our modern houses with our well-sealed doors and double-glazing and proper waterproofing, and modern houses experience a complete change in air every thirty minutes whether we want to or not.

The general medical advice in the 1800s was to always leave at least one window open (regardless of weather) to allow “fresh air” to circulate and avoid suffocation. This was especially important for children.

Fresh air has maintained its reputation for health benefits, but its meaning has changed slightly over 200 years. Now, it means “air without pollution” instead of “air containing oxygen.”

Inside spaces tend to pick up a lot of smells from the things you have around. I’m sure you may notice that your room smells like you, a school smells a particular way, a hospital, a Home Depot, a pool, etc. The air there has picked up the smells of the objects and people inside. If you’re around it for a while, you might feel the need to get away from it.

That’s when you go outside to the “fresh” air, the air that smells untainted by all the stuff going on inside. It smells like nothing, or like flowers, but usually cleaner than where you came from. That’s why it tends to be refreshing. “Fresh” air is relative to where you are; the beach could be ‘fresh’ if you live in a big city, or outside on the sidewalk could be ‘fresh’ if you are inside a stale office building with lots of other people.

If something is pure air, then yes air would just be air. Pure air is usually defined as nitrogen and oxygen with perhaps a few other things like argon and carbon dioxide in low quantities.

But in the real world, there can be many other particles floating around in what we might call “air” just like a real world glass of water might have many other substances in it besides H2O.

Air in your house could have a number of dust particles and pollutants in it that have come from biological sources (you) as well as the materials your house is made of.

Air outside might be fresher (closer to pure air) since the outside air is a much larger quantity of air to dilute pollutants.