Breathing

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Function of Lungs

 

There are two major functions for the lung. The first one is a respiratory function and the second is a cleansing or filtering function.

 

Respiration

 

The primary function of the lung is for respiration. One can think of the lungs as a car engine. On inhalation, just like a car injects fuel into the engine, the body takes oxygen in from the air, transports it through the blood and delivers it to the tissues so they can be fueled and nourished. On exhalation, the body transports the waste product of metabolism, carbon dioxide to the lungs, which is then expelled out through the lungs. This is similar to how a car exhaust system removes the waste of an engine.

 

Filtering

 

The lungs have a secondary function, acting as a filter. As we inhale, dust particles, bacteria, viruses can get trapped within the little hairs lining our noses and airways called “cilia”. There’s also a layer of mucus along our respiratory tracts that can help to trap this material and allow our bodies to expel it over time. 

 

The other part of the filtering function is that as the blood flows through the lungs, it actually goes through small blood vessels called “capillaries”. The blood vessels are so small that a lot of material gets trapped within the lung as well. So, the lungs act as both an air and blood filtering system. A final function of the respiratory system is to help warm the air as it enters our lungs.

 

Continuous Operation

 

Lungs are amazing organs. They never stop functioning. We’re constantly breathing in and out 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for our entire lives. Every day, we can expect that our lungs will intake and expel about 5,000 gallons of air.

 

Having healthy lungs is an important part of having a comfortable and enjoyable life.

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