The atmosphere on the earth is mostly nitrogen, in a sealed environment if you were to remove the oxygen from the atmosphere in 30 minutes what would the symptoms be?

I think the usual trope is clutching at throats or being suffocated however I think that either or both of the following would happen

  1. A rapid decline in cognitive abilities followed by unconsciousness
  2. Symptoms of altitude sickness, hyperventilation, nausea, and exhaustion

Can anyone provide any sources?

Note: Atmospheric pressure would be kept constant, back filling the missing oxygen with more nitrogen.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The word that you need to Google is "hypoxia." Your entire answer will be there. As such, I believe this is off-topic here, but I think it would work well on Health or Biology. $\endgroup$
    – cobaltduck
    Aug 9 '16 at 15:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ No oxygen what so ever means no respiration...it's the same answer to the question 'what if everyone held their breathe for 30 minutes?'. I doubt much survives...human anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Aug 9 '16 at 15:54

You'd be looking at some fairly standard general hypoxia, and you're pretty much on the money when it comes to symptoms. Note that the presence or absence of pressure drop is pretty meaningless - it's the decrease in avaliable oxygen that's the killer, not pressure.


  • $\begingroup$ oooh, this is great and led me to Inert Gas Asphyxiation which is the exact answer I'm after. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inert_gas_asphyxiation $\endgroup$
    – Chris J
    Aug 9 '16 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ and also replacing the oxygen with nitrogen is untraceable at autopsy!! $\endgroup$
    – Chris J
    Aug 9 '16 at 16:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ChrisJ I actually considered offing an annoying roommate like that a couple years ago. $\endgroup$
    – UIDAlexD
    Aug 9 '16 at 16:04
  • $\begingroup$ you scare me a little bit... $\endgroup$
    – Chris J
    Aug 9 '16 at 16:20

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