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I'm writing a story where some children (age 5 to 16) are abducted by aliens and now live on an alien planet. The atmosphere is similar enough to Earth's that the children don't need any special suits or breathing equipment, but I want it to be different enough so there are some noticeable effects (not necessarily deadly or detrimental). I don't have any particular atmosphere in mind and I don't really need to know the exact composition or pressure of the atmosphere since the story is told in first person perspective of a child.

What are some potential short and long term effects of growing up with an alien atmosphere? Would someone be shorter or taller? More susceptible to bone breaks? Elongated lifespan? Cognitive issues? Increase endurance?

I know that higher levels of Argon will lower your voice and I read the High-Altitude adaptation wikipedia article.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't think you're going to get heroic mutations from a different atmosphere. You might get life-long respiratory issues (like smokers get). Also, welcome to World Building! $\endgroup$ – Nex Terren Aug 10 '16 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ If the atmosphere has more oxygen, you want to look at Hyperoxia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperoxia $\endgroup$ – Chris J Aug 10 '16 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ If there's enough Argon in the atmosphere to affect voices, you'd be in constant fear of suffocating, to get argon out of your lungs you need to be turned upside down so it flows out of you $\endgroup$ – Chris J Aug 10 '16 at 15:08
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You could use an atmosphere will large quantities of helium present instead of the nitrogen in Earth's atmosphere. This would be similar to the heliox mix used as a breathing gas for diving.

They would be able to breath normally, and it would likely not have any effect on their development. It would have an effect most people are familiar with, their voices would be much higher in pitch due to the helium. Also it is significantly less dense than normal air and would require less effort to breath (it is used medically for patients with difficulty breathing).

Even a young child narrator would recognize these effects and may be able to identify the possible cause if they have experience with helium balloons changing someone's voice.

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