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Human Lung Air Pressure

07/05/2012 4:57 PM

What are the human lung air pressure parameters, in PSI, an average adult male can be expected to deliver? For example, in blowing up a balloon? Given good health and no limiting issues, what are the highest lung air pressures a human can be expected to deliver by mouth? Is there a gauge that can measure that? Thank you for your help.

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#1

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/05/2012 5:21 PM

Interesting question.

I have no idea what the value is, but I will share something that is impressive.

Muscleman Franco Columbu, blowing a rubber hot water bottle like a balloon to the point of failure! That's right, he pops it with lung power! 30 second YouTube video.

This fellow is certainly not average.

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#2

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/05/2012 6:01 PM

Interesting indeed. I didn't find an easy answer on the net, but, we're working with 14.7PSI, more or less, of atmospheric pressure so, breathing in is more due to relaxing muscles in the abdomen and letting the differential pressure do the work, than work we do to "inhale".

So my guess is somewhere over 15 PSI, but not much over 20 PSI.

Any low pressure air gauge should give you an idea.

As an asthmatic, I can tell you that atmospheric pressure just doesn't always work well to fill the lungs.

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#3
In reply to #1

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/05/2012 7:12 PM

Guy could get a side job blowing up truck tires for pocket change. Thanks for the response.

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/05/2012 7:20 PM

Yes, I was guessing the same. You need 14.7 to displace ambient but I could find no conclusive upper PSI estimate. Thank you.

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#5

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/05/2012 8:37 PM
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#6

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/05/2012 9:03 PM

A U-tube water manometer would be a suitable instrument. IIRC, one can blow about a 5-foot water column, ~2 psi.

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#7
In reply to #5

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/05/2012 10:46 PM

Thank you, very Helpful.

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#8
In reply to #6

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/05/2012 10:50 PM

Thank you...

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#9

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/05/2012 11:17 PM

There is no need to overcome atmospheric (14+ psi) since the lungs are at the same pressure as ambient pressure while at rest and only slightly higher when inhaling.

I looked through my boxes of gauges and couldn't find one of suitable range for your test but found one in the range of 0-100" of H20 (this equals a full scale of 3.6 psi). Took my old tired ex-smoker from NJ lungs and tested myself. Came up with a reading of 45" H2O which equals approx. 1.62 psi, which isn't too bad considering the source.

I seriously doubt that there is anyone who could produce more than about 3-4 psi at the most but that is a gut deduction not scientific fact. I would wounder what damage would be done to the lungs and circulatory system if there was that much of a pressure differential between the lungs and blood system.

In scuba diving there are much higher pressures fed into the lungs but that is in balance with the ambient pressure exerted on the body.

Good Luck, Old Salt

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#10

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/05/2012 11:24 PM

I worked in an instrument shop with a 100" H2O manometer, we had a contest. Most of the guys could get between 50" and 80" but there was one guy that could blow it out.

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#11

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/06/2012 3:07 AM

Thank you very much for all of the help and the suggestions, I appreciate your information.

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#12

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/06/2012 8:44 AM

I was tested at the VA hospital a couple years ago, in preparation to joining a quit-smoking program. I achieved 93", and they were quite amazed, for a 30 year smoker to be able to do that. Personally, I had nothing to compare it to; so I didn't know what was good or poor one way or the other.

Let me also point out, that evidently, this has nothing to do with lung stamina. Because I get seriously winded by simply climbing 3 flights of stairs. So I suspect that my diaphragm rocks, but my lungs suck.

So far I've found no practical advantage to having this ability.

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#13

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/06/2012 9:05 AM

Funnily enough, this is one physiological parameter which is very seldom measured. I have been able to find one reference with a measured figure for the maximum expiratory pressure. In that study the mean maximal expiratory pressure was 140 cm H2O (1.99 psi) standing, and less sitting or lying.

The corollary is the maximum inspiratory pressure, which determines how deep one can swim under water while breathing through a snorkel. The MIP is about 30-40 cm H2O, so there is no sense in having a snorkel much longer than that.

http://ajp.physiotherapy.asn.au/AJP/vol_48/2/AustJPhysiotherv48i2Badr.pdf

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#14
In reply to #2

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/06/2012 9:20 AM

"breathing in is more due to relaxing muscles in the abdomen"

Certainly the abdominal wall muscles relax during inspiration, but the actual gas flow is generated following active contraction of the diaphragm muscle, which causes a slight negative pressure in the chest. That differential pressure is the cause of the inspiratory flow, and has a value of around -5 cm H2O. In asthmatics the diaphragm has to work harder to generate a greater negative pressure. The expiratory muscles collectively are much stronger than the inspiratory muscles, but they are not used a lot except in coughing (and, of course, by asthmatics, to overcome the higher resistance to gas flow in the airways).

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#15

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/06/2012 9:22 AM

From that ol' For-What-Its-Worth department :

Though others have exaggerated the number 'fantstically', I recall hearing as a youth (changing from trumpet to french horn) that Al Hirt was once measured at producing a full "two-plus" psi in his cheeks, reaching for some unbelievable high note.

That correlates to what wiki says here (~1.9 psi).

As mentioned already, divers can tolerate breathing quite high pressure breathing gas-mix, but ONLY when their bodies are under the same pressure (at depth).

The fragile lung-walls will NOT tolerate a very high differential. That is partly why many (if not most) pneumothorax injuries occur at very shallow depths ... i.e., in the last few feet of a diver's ascent.

[Granted, certain individuals may be capable of "extra-ordinary" pressures/vacuums produced by the mouth ... for very brief periods. Certain {may-we-say} 'sucker-bite' type hazards do exist...!]

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#16
In reply to #13

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/06/2012 10:26 AM

30-40cm is about a foot and a half. I have a four foot deep swimming pool filled near the top. I'm going to grab some hose, lay down on the bottom, and see if I can breathe. I think I should be able to, but I've been wrong before. I'll let you guys know Monday.

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/06/2012 11:01 AM

"...a four foot deep swimming pool filled near the top..." ... lying on bottom, lips approx. 6-inches off bottom ... depending on what diameter hose you are taking down, and how stiff/pliable it is ... I'm willing to bet you just *might* be able to breathe through it, but certainly NOT "comfortably".

Even just the one-and-a-half or so psi squeezing on the hose will pinch it somewhat. And your 'sucking' through it will only worsen that symptom!

Try to have somebody trained in CPR standing-by if you DO attempt that, please!

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#18
In reply to #16

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/06/2012 11:04 AM

If we don't hear from you on Monday, where should we send the undertaker?

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#19
In reply to #16

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/06/2012 12:30 PM

seriously make sure you have some one watching you. You are not going to get enough oxygen thru a 4+ foot hose to survive long. you will be re-breathing the same air with little new oxygenated air mixed in.

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#20
In reply to #19

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/06/2012 1:10 PM

[( SURELY he's thinking : "In through the mouth, out through the nose"...)]

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#21
In reply to #16

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/06/2012 1:21 PM

I suggest running into the nearest swamp and breaking off a hollow 4' reed. Evidently, you can hide indefinitely by just laying down in the swamp and breathing through the reed!

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#22

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/09/2012 11:56 PM

RIP Envelopeguy.

I was at the Docs today and blew into the blood pressure guage and got to 80 mm/hg.

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#23
In reply to #17

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/10/2012 4:24 AM

Snorkels are generally rigid, but even garden hose is rigid enough for the purpose. The limiting factor is the respiratory muscle strength. You have the pressure of 30 cm H2O squeezing your chest in, and the inspiratory muscles are unable to generate a pressure to overcome that.

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#24
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Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/11/2012 9:18 AM

Snorkles *are* rigid (as you stated), for very good reason.

However , NOT all hoses are alike , by any stretch of the imagination...!

...and , "30 cm H2O squeezing your chest in" does not afford the resistance that would preclude ones "inspiratory muscles" to inhale.

The depth that WOULD cause severe resistance to inhalation (through a flexible tube) could very well also begin to pinch-off that tube ... especially during the inhalation process ... (everyone knows the physics involved) ... that's all that I was saying.

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#25
In reply to #22

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/11/2012 2:34 PM

"Congrats !" lyn ~

. . . a n d . . . (Re: "RIP") I wonder if the water was too cold for him ...?

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#26
In reply to #24

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/11/2012 6:31 PM

I agree that there are varieties of garden hose which are compressible, but that is beside the point. Even with a rigid snorkel, there is a depth of water below which one cannot breathe. The reason for that is that the water is exerting a pressure on the chest and abdomen. That pressure is too great to allow the diaphragm to contract, which is what normally causes the major expansion of the lungs, and is also too much for the intercostal muscle action of spreading the ribs, which accounts for another portion of expansion of the lungs. Resistance to airway flow is not a part of the discussion.

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#27
In reply to #26

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/12/2012 3:07 PM

!? Although what you state had already been said...

WRT : "Resistance to airway flow is not a part of the discussion" , neither was "inhalation" (in the O.P.) ... but the "flow" changes with each new post.

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#28
In reply to #27

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/12/2012 4:32 PM

Only sort of. The quoted 30 cm H2O pressure on the chest is already sufficient to prevent the inspiratory muscles from contracting, unless you are Superperson. In a discussion of physical terms I am not so keen on "resistance to pressure" when airway resistance already is a defined and understood entity.

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#29

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/19/2012 9:29 AM

I completely apologize for not getting back to this group on this. I have been so tied up that I haven't done the test yet. I would like to say something that will probably "bust the myth" of being able to breath through a tube at the bottom of a pool. I am 6' tall, and when I get on my knees in my pool, where my chin is just about water level, I don't feel any problem at all in breathing. I can't imagine going another foot and a half will change things very much. I'll try to perform this test tonight and see.

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#30

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/20/2012 10:39 AM

OK, I finally did it. I took 8 feet of 1/2" id nylon reinforced tubing and tied one end into a loop around the top of the pool ladder. I took a few practice breathes, trying to get into a rhythm of inhaling through the hose and exhaling through my nose. Then I took the plunge and still got water up my nose. Take two: I practiced a few more times and forced myself into doing this even if water got up my nose. I grabbed the pool ladder, which is a deluxe model weighed down with sand, and pushed myself to the bottom. I was able to take a couple of breathes in a lying position, but honestly it was very difficult to breathe. My chest had to be about 3ft under water, or about 75cm. I think if I had larger diameter hose connected to a mouthpiece I could have done it easier. So 40cm doesn't seem to be the limit for breathing through a snorkel, but it's can't be much more than 75cm.

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#31
In reply to #30

Re: Human Lung Air Pressure

07/20/2012 11:46 AM

Congratulations ... on being a "Superperson" ...

( I had every confidence that you would arrive at a much less-incorrect / more accurate figure.)

Glad you succeeded sans injury ... !

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