Imagine a Wind Mage capable of controlling the atmosphere around himself with his mind. He has developed the ability to kill people quickly and painfully: increase the air pressure in the lungs of his victims, to explode them.

My question is: ¿How much pressure do you need to explode a lung? By explode I mean: blow up, break the lung, cause bleeding, or any other thing that would kill a person and doesn't have a cure.

  • $\begingroup$ well, not enough evidence to justify making an answer, but I read about 20 PSI. $\endgroup$ Jun 8, 2017 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ How do you plan to prevent victims to open their mouth? $\endgroup$
    – ZioByte
    Jun 8, 2017 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ It isn't necessary, my mage could introduce the air by the nose. Human need breath to live, so in some minutes (when the human will try to breath) he can kill them. Also, I don't know much but the epiglottis block the entrance of food (water and air) to the lungs, I don't think that it would be very difficult to break it with high pressure... $\endgroup$
    – Ender Look
    Jun 8, 2017 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ Can be nice to explain the mechanics of the magic effect to help us find a way. For example,if you introduce air by the nose how you can kill someone just blocks his nose? Anyway if you just want to wave a hand and make the poor guy explode from inside jsut rule a ridiculous value like 14.600PSI. By the way... calqlata.com/productpages/00072-help.html $\endgroup$
    – jean
    Jun 8, 2017 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ If you don't need a spectacular "exploding" effect, it would require much less effort to collapse a lung (both lungs). Which, without emergency medical care, would lead to quick death. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Jun 8, 2017 at 22:09

3 Answers 3


Not much at all

Assuming you are talking about a pressure differential that that does not equalize across the body, i.e. not in the cases of diving or slow pressurization. Pressure really can only damage the lungs of there is a sharp increase, such as near an explosion. However, putting your mouth on a high-pressure line will work too. According to Wikipedia, 10 psi is sufficient to cause massive lung damage. The CDC seems to back this up.


It really all depends...

Divers use regulators to keep their lungs at the same pressure as the pressure of the water. At sea level, the lungs operate at 14.6 PSI. IF you were to drop down another 33 feet under water, (one atmosphere), you'd have the already 14.6 PSI plus the extra 14.6, you're now at 29.2 PSI. If you were to take out the regulator and begin to float up... Boom. Anyway, another way to go about it would be overloading their lungs with air. The average lung holds 6 litres of air. Past that the lungs will literally pop.

  • $\begingroup$ It's the pressure difference between the inside of the lungs and the ambient environment that matters. So adding 14.6 to get the absolute pressure doesn't mean anything. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Jun 11, 2017 at 11:19

If you're capable of arbitrarily increasing air pressure in an area, you would be better off simply increasing the pressure in a sphere around the target without bound; this will eventually cause them to implode, and has no (non-magical) counter-measures.

Response to comment: 1700 psi will fracture a human femur. This is equivalent to ~115 atmospheres. This is far greater than the pressure required to do it from the inside out; whether this matters depends on the extent and nature of the wind mage's power.

Counter-measures to blowing up a person's lungs are covered in the other responses.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding! How much air pressure would you need to do this? How would that compare to the pressure required to 'blow up' a lung? What are the counter measures to someone magically increasing the air pressure in your lung(s)? $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2017 at 9:52

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