Health Benefits of Fresh Air vs Pure Oxygen

Is it ‘better’ to breathe pure oxygen rather than ‘normal’ air?

Somebody recently asked the Coast Capture Air team the above question. So we put it to the experts at an industry air quality conference. 

They explained the likely damage caused by breathing pure oxygen instead of fresh air. No matter how elixir-like it may seem, pure oxygen is a slow poison when used for a long period of time.

Breathing pure oxygen damages the lungs and hampers the body’s power to breathe oxygen! 

If adults breathe pure oxygen for over 24 hours then toxicity would occur. This would cause cell damage to the central nervous system, lungs and retina.

Pure oxygen causes an imbalance between oxidants and anti-oxidants.

100% oxygen produces free radicals. These are unstable and highly reactive species of oxygen. This is because of a missing electron in their outer rings. 

Here’s the thing:

To limit their desire for electrons and to return to a stable state, the Free Radicals 'steal' electrons from important cell molecules like DNA, RNA, and proteins. This causes a huge amount of cell damage and, sometimes, cell death. This damage is more pronounced in tissues that are rich in blood vessels, for example, lungs.

Parents tell their children to stop playing computer games indoors. “Spend more time outside!” they say. But what would happen if they just breathed pure oxygen?

We still produce free radicals, only in much lesser amounts. At these levels, the antioxidants of the body provide the reactive radicals with an extra electron, neutralising them before they wrench one from important cell structures. So, antioxidants save us enduring damage.

100% oxygen overwhelms the antioxidants systems of the body, thus, causing body-wide toxicity.

So, it would seem better to protect and cultivate our body’s antioxidants. As they actually save us (our cells) from enduring damage of the free radicals.

OK, but how can we actually do this?

The best solution is, of course, a healthy diet. The best foods are those that are high in antioxidants and those that contain Vitamins A, C and E. Another good source is foods that contain lycopene and beta-carotene.

We suggest fruits, veg, pomegranate, apple and carrot juice, plus green and black teas, dark chocolate and good old red wine.

So, how much oxygen is there in the air?

The normal air that we breathe is made up of two main gases – oxygen 21% and nitrogen 78%. The extra 1% is made up of carbon dioxide, methane and a few other types of gas. There’s also tiny dust particles, microbes and plant spores.

We see these in shafts of sunlight in a room and breathe them in without a thought. Think also about the levels of pollution caused by car exhausts. Everywhere we look the air is full of particles that can damage our lungs.

So, apart from a healthy diet, how else can we cultivate and protect antioxidants in the body and safeguard ourselves from the free radicals?

Breathing sea air has a positive impact of which we have plenty of jars for sale!

It is full of negative hydrogen ions. These charged particles are plentiful in sea spray and concentrated in coastal fresh air.

These negative ions help the body’s ability to absorb oxygen. They neutralise the damaging free radicals (positive ions). There’s more good news. The negative ions also balance out the levels of serotonin. This is the hormone that lessens anxiety and promotes the feel-good factor. This is something we all want more of.

Add sunshine, sand, sea water and seaweed to the picture. One can easily see how spending time at the seashore is seen by many as the ideal choice to relax, unwind and improve general health. It also boosts our mental well-being.

What about you?

Let us have your thoughts and comments on the above.

Why not send us photos from your favourite coastal locations in and around Great Britain.

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(Shreya Thacker, Physical and Respiratory Therapist)

(Victoria Lambert, Be Beside the Seaside, The Daily Telegraph

Thanks to the experts at the IAPSC for answering our questions.

A Fresh & Bracing Day on Britain’s Coast
Jaime Lawson