I guess new technologies have always brought scary articles about their dangers. Airplanes and cars were still pretty new, and this article explains that moving so quickly through the air can force so much carbon dioxide into your lungs that you’ll die.
The new disease is a poisoning of the system through the lungs. It is caused by repressed breathing while moving rapidly through the air. At first it seems to be a sort of smothering. But the disease is more than that.
Air once taken into the lungs practically becomes carbonic acid gas — a deadly poison. When expelled at once, of course, no damage is done. But when men pass rapidly through the air, the pressure on the face from the fast driving prevents the expulsion of the poisoned air from the lungs. The carbonic acid gas is forced back into the body. Only a little of it can get away, because of the air pressing on the face. The gas is rebreathed and poisons the system…
[Dr S. A. Knopf says the disease] had not been recognized yet by American physicians.
“To find out about such a disease,” he said, “it would be needful to have a chauffeur drive an automobile very swiftly with his face unprotected. To experiment on a man — no, that would be too dangerous. But we could find out if we strapped a monkey to an automobile and drove the machine at sixty, or, say, seventy miles an hour.”
But don’t worry. With outrageous theories come outrageous solutions:
The remedy for the new disease suggested in England, and a preventative of similar ills is a mouthpiece to be strapped to the face with tubes extending from it on either side to the back of the head in the shape of the letter U. With the ends behind the ears and pointing backward, the wind pressure on the breath would be relieved and the poisonous carbonic acid gas could escape to the rear.
Somehow, these automobile snorkels just never caught on.
But what about automobile fumes? Should people worry about those? The doctor says no. “There is no danger from the fumes of the gasoline. They are dissipated in the air.”
A NEW AUTOMOBILE AND AEROPLANE DISEASE (PDF)
From December 18, 1910