Lung Facts

Lung facts, pulmonary health, respiratory system

The respiratory system is made up of several organs and structures, including the lungs, windpipe, diaphragm, and alveoli. It is responsible for taking in oxygen and expelling carbon-dioxide waste. But you probably knew that. What you may not know is that you take approximately 22,000 breaths every 24 hours. And that when you exhale, you also release up to 17.5 milliliters (0.59 fluid ounces) of water per hour. Here are 8 more interesting facts about the lungs:

  • The lungs are the only organ that can float on water.  Each of your lungs contains about 300 million balloon-like structures called alveoli, which replace the carbon-dioxide waste in your blood with oxygen. When these structures are filled with air, the lungs become the only organs in the human body that can float. In fact, medical examiners use the so-called “lung float test” during autopsies to determine if a baby was stillborn (died in the womb). If the lungs float, the baby was born alive; if the lungs don’t float, the baby was stillborn. This method is accurate 98 percent of the time, according to a 2013 study in the International Journal of Legal Medicine.
  • Your left and right lungs aren’t exactly the same. The lung on the left side of your body is divided into two lobes while the lung on your right side is divided into three. The left lung is also slightly smaller, allowing room for your heart.
  • Can you live without one lung? Yes, you can, it limits your physical ability but doesn’t stop you from living a relatively normal life. Many people around the world live with just one lung.
  • People who have a large lung capacity can send oxygen around their body faster. You can increase your lung capacity with regular exercise.
  • An average person breathes in around 11,000 liters of air every day.
  • The study of lung diseases is known as pulmonology.
  • Asthma is a common disease that affects the lungs. Asthma attacks happen when your airways narrow after being irritated. The narrow airways make it hard for you to breathe in air.  However, between the 1930s and 1950s, it was commonly thought that asthma was a psychological problem. Therapists even interpreted a child’s asthmatic wheezing as a suppressed cry for his or her mother, according to a 2005 article in the journal Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health.
  • Chest movement during breathing isn’t the result of air movement. When you breathe in, our chest swells; when you breathe out, our chest collapses. But these chest movements are not actually the result of air filling up or exiting the lungs.During inhalation, the diaphragm — a thin sheet of dome-shaped muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities — contracts and moves down, increasing the space in the chest cavity. At the same time, the muscles between the ribs contract to pull the rib cage upward and outward. During exhalation, the exact opposite happens.