Like it or not, we humans are very dependent on the world outside. People require oxygen to survive and the only source of breathable air is growing plants. You are married to these green things. If you seal up a room completely, you will notice a difference in a few hours. You know that you are breathing stale air when a breath of fresh air smells sweet and your mind clears.

“If you seal up a room and stay inside, what are human oxygen requirements for elementary aged children to adults?

An average adult each day consumes 4 lb of food, 2 lb of water, and 6 lb of oxygen. I could not find a corroborating site, but the numbers seem roughly reasonable. Assuming 6 lb of oxygen per day is right, how large a room do you have to seal? Incidentally, an exercising adult uses oxygen at about 15 times this rate, so remain calm!

6 lb is about 2.73 kg. Since a mole of oxygen has a mass of 32 gm = 0.032 kg, an adult needs about 85 moles per day. Since a mole under standard conditions (atmospheric pressure, 300 C) occupies 22.4 liters, 85 moles occupies about 1900 liters or 1.9 m^3. But air is 21% oxygen, so about 9.1 m^3 of 321 ft^3 of air is required for one adult for one day. If your ceiling is 8 ft high, this means you need 40 ft^2 of floor area per adult per day. So a room 20 ft square (400 ft^2) would provide for 5 (quiet) adults for two days. That air would be rather stale, so you would want a factor of at least 2 or 4 to make the air more breathable after two days.

I hope you find this discussion useful and I hope MUCH more that you will never have the need to use it!”

Best, Dick Plano, Professor of Physics Emeritus, Rutgers University

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