Why is oxygen important to life on earth?


Quick Answer

The primary importance of oxygen is that it is critical for cellular respiration in all aerobic organisms. Oxygen also has medical uses including oxygen therapy, high-pressure treatment, and in protective suits made for space and deep sea exploration. Oxygen destroys harmful bacteria in human bodies, and is used to treat victims of carbon monoxide.

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Full Answer

Oxygen is one of the most essential requirements of life, without which organisms on Earth would not survive. Living organisms generate energy from food through the process of respiration. This allows humans and other organisms to perform their daily tasks. Improper metabolism weakens the cells and causes them to lose natural immunity, making them susceptible to viruses that may lead to fatal health conditions. Oxygen is used in mitochondria to generate adenosine triphosphate during oxidative phosphorylation. Additionally, it is used in hospitals for patients with breathing difficulties. Oxygen therapy boosts oxygen levels in the patient’s blood, and lowers the resistance to blood flow in patients with lung-related diseases, which eases the work load on the heart. Similarly, breathing apparatus are used by astronauts, mountaineers and scuba drivers. Other applications of oxygen include water treatment and chemical combustion.

Oxygen is used in several industrial chemical applications, including the manufacture of sulfuric acid, nitric acid and other compounds. Industrial oxygen is used for cutting, welding and melting metals. Atmospheric oxygen is used to generate energy for industrial functions, generators and ships. Commercially, oxygen is used in the steel industry to make steel and iron in blast furnaces.

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