Curious Kids: what happens if you breathe pure oxygen?

The article has been republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What happens if you breathe pure oxygen and why? Stephen, age 9, Muntinlupa City, The Philippines

Hi Stephen!

That’s a great question. We can’t live without oxygen. But too much can harm us. Let’s find out why.

Our bodies make the energy we need to run around, play and do schoolwork, by burning the food we eat. Think of this a bit like a candle burning. To burn our food, we need oxygen, which we get from breathing in the air around us.

Oxygen isn’t the only gas in the air. In fact, air’s mostly made of nitrogen. This has a very important job. Nitrogen slows down the burning process so you get enough energy through the day, bit by bit.

If you breathed pure oxygen, the energy from your food would be released all at once. So forget candles. This is more like a firework exploding. Bang! If you breathed pure oxygen, you wouldn’t actually explode. But you would damage your body.

/Public Release. View in full here.