June 24, 1974

Where There's Fire, There's Smoke

JAMA. 1974;228(13):1668. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230380036021

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The aroma of horse dander and cow manure that often overwhelms a city dweller visiting or passing through cattle ranges of Colorado or Wyoming is never referred to as air "pollution." This dirty word is usually reserved for exhaust fumes of automobiles or for the smoke of factory chimneys. Unlike industrial offenders, the "natural" malodorous emanations tearing at one's olfactory bulbs are presumed to be harmless, even invigorating, unless, of course, the inhaler happens to have asthma, hay fever, or an overly fastidious psyche.

The sharp difference in attitude toward by-products of civilization and those of nature is only in part the outcome of genuine and legitimate concern about health. In large measure it is a reflection of the romantic tradition, dating back to Jean Jacques Rousseau, which holds that the "natural" life of primitive man was good and healthy before it became subverted by industrial progress. Civilization is evil,