Can you survive with 100% Oxygen in Atmosphere ?

Almost everyone know that we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, however it is totally false assumption which we will explain soon. But the interesting fact is that most of us believe that we are solely surviving with the oxygen in the air. If you are one of them then this false belief will be cleared with our scientific explanation.

Human beings are evolved to survive in an oxygen rich atmosphere, but how rich is the question. We, the human beings on earth, live in an atmosphere with just 21% oxygen. Believe me ! it is an oxygen rich atmosphere. We can survive in an atmosphere with oxygen level ranging from 19.5 to 23.5 percent. Some of you might think that lower limit makes some sense, but why is the upper limit. What will happen if the oxygen level rises above 24%. Lets give you the answer.

What happens if oxygen level rises above 24% ?

Oxygen is a very reactive gas. At a concentration of above 24% in air, it becomes highly dangerous. In such circumstances your clothes and hair can easily catch fire just with a little friction around them. If you are breathing in such environment then oxygen toxicity can occur in your body. The level of oxygen toxicity depends on the air pressure, oxygen concentration in air and duration of exposure. Adverse effects of oxygen toxicity are found in central nervous system, lungs and eyes. High concentration of oxygen causes cell damage and death in severe cases.

Can we breath 100% oxygen ?

A 100% oxygen is not possible in real life atmosphere, but it is possible in the form of breathing cylinders that scuba divers use. Usage of such 100% oxygen cylinders need training, as it can be highly dangerous for an untrained person to inhale such air.

Is pure oxygen poisonous ?

Pure oxygen is not an instant poison. It kills slowly and takes around 16 to 48 hours to kill an adult. When we breath pure oxygen then we can't utilize the whole amount of inhaled oxygen, as our lungs have not evolved in this way. So the extra oxygen molecules binds itself to surface proteins of lungs. It damages the lungs, central nervous system and eyes. Excess oxygen in our system damages the DNA and critical enzymes. Oxygen poisoning, oxygen toxicity and hyperoxia are various names of poisoning caused due to inhaling pure oxygen or high concentration of oxygen. In some severe cases death is also possible by oxygen poisoning.

Do oxygen cylinders in hospitals contain 100% oxygen ?

Yes some oxygen cylinders contain pure oxygen, but it does not mean that you inhale pure 100% oxygen. The oxygen in the cylinder get mixed with the room air before entering your body. It provides appropriate level of oxygen to your body and you are not exposed to chances of oxygen poisoning. Usually the level of oxygen in a cylinder is mentioned on their body, either in writing or in the form of color codes. Medical professionals are usually well aware of the facts mentioned here.

Why are we not evolved to use Nitrogen, the most abundant gas on earth ?

Molecular Nitrogen(N2) is comparatively more stable than Oxygen(O2). If you have some understanding of chemical bonds then you will understand that triple bond of N2 is harder to break. Much more amount of energy is required to knock off the valence shell electrons of Nitrogen than Oxygen. Ionization potential of Nitrogen is greater than Oxygen. Therefore, even when nitrogen is more abundant, we are evolved to utilize Oxygen which can easily take part in metabolic reactions.

The air we inhale contain 21% oxygen, but the air we exhale contain 16% oxygen. So we actually don't consume the whole oxygen in air, but just decrease the oxygen concentration from 21 to 16 percent.

We hope that after reading this article on, you will be more aware about how your body works. This article also tells you about importance of correct levels of oxygen in our atmosphere. Even a few percent up or down in the oxygen concentration in atmosphere can wipe out our whole species from earth. So be sensitive to this nature and stay healthy.

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