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Thread: Human metabolism and its relation to gases in the atmosphere

  1. #1 Human metabolism and its relation to gases in the atmosphere 
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    I was wondering if anyone knows about the following: humans require a certain amount of gases in the air in order to function properly metabolically. Our atmosphere is relatively thin so the range or percentage of these gases is fairly exact, as I understand it. My question is--are the percentages of these gases changing and, if so, what amount of change is required before it will affect human life as we know it?


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  3. #2  
    Forum Ph.D.
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    I dont think this is fully known, however, there is actually a large variation in the gas content of the atmosphere depending on where you are. eg, there is a much higher concentration of CO2 in the air in cities than there would be in the countryside. Also, on the other end of things, patients in hospitals may be put on high concentrations of oxygen to increase its uptake. Note also that there couldnt be one precise figure for all humans as there is of course variation between people, eg those in the peru mountains have anatomically larger lungs to prevent altitude sickness.

    I suppose the answer to your question is that yes gas concentrations are changing, most notably that of CO2 which is internationally now almost 400ppm. In a way that may be affecting us already in an indirect sense as it may affect crop production rates and horticultur in general.

    When you say metabolically do you have something in particular in mind, obviously high concentrations of carbon monoxide will prevent oxygen uptake & so on.


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  4. #3  
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    I guarantee they will discover large concentrations fluxuations in the near future. You dont have to see an inconvience truth to see smog over Los Angeles, or black smoke rushing from a tire factory fire, thus the moral of the story is we can see our gas concentration changing.

    As for the consequences that this may lead to as a response to this. Well metabollically if we get too much CO2 in our body we will change blood pH levels. This by default will decrease proper RBC function, such as hold on to oxygen (since hemoglobin might get denatured do to the slight change). This will cause alot of peripheral tissue damage, neurological problems, cardiac problems, you name it. Organic acid buld up in the liver maybe as a result of all the CO2 and other events, may cause liver, kidney damage and such forth. So you could see how this might affect metabolic rates. Of course thats just CO2, {conc.} of other compounds might affect is a myriad of other mechanisms.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Ph.D.
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    CO2 levels dont affect RBC function, RBCs are adapted to cope with CO2 since it is obviously going to be produced in response to releasing O2.

    Remember the Bohr & Haldane effect & salt bridges between haemoglobin subunits, decreased pH causes more O2 to be released to tissues at constant pCO2 (or vice versa)
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