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The lungs are organs contained within the thoracic cavity, and are primarily responsible for oxygenating the bloodstream within the body, while removing carbon dioxide. This process takes place in small sacs called alveoli, where there is a gas exchange between the oxygen inhaled, and the carbon dioxide within the blood.

Your lungs are protected by rib cages, 12 rib cages in fact, and connect to the spinal cord to keep the lungs safe. Below the lungs are the diaphragm, when inhaling, your diaphragm allows the body to inhale the air.

Into the Lungs[edit | edit source]

Looking it from the outside, the lungs are squishy and bright pink. But looking into the lungs, they are more! At the bottom of the trachea, they are two large tubes. These tubes are named the bronchi, and one heads left into the left part of the tunnel, while the other goes to the right part of the tunnel. Each main stem bronchus (say: BRONG-kuss) — the name for just one of the bronchi — then branches off into tubes, or bronchi, that get smaller and even smaller still, like branches on a big tree. The tiniest tubes are called bronchioles (say: BRONG-kee-oles), and there are about 30,000 of them in each lung. Each bronchiole is about the same thickness as a hair.

At the end of each bronchiole is a special area that leads into clumps of teeny tiny air sacs called alveoli (say: al-VEE-oh-lie). There are about 600 million alveoli in your lungs and if you stretched them out, they would cover an entire tennis court. Now that's a load of alveoli! Each alveolus (say: al-VEE-oh-luss) — what we call just one of the alveoli — has a mesh-like covering of very small blood vessels called capillaries (say: CAP-ill-er-ees). These capillaries are so tiny that the cells in your blood need to line up single file just to march through them.

All about Inhaling[edit | edit source]

When you're walking your dog, cleaning your room, or spiking a volleyball, you probably don't think about inhaling (breathing in) — you've got other things on your mind! But every time you inhale air, dozens of body parts work together to help get that air in there without you ever thinking about it.

As you breathe in, your diaphragm contracts and flattens out. This allows it to move down, so your lungs have more room to grow larger as they fill up with air. "Move over, diaphragm, I'm filling up!" is what your lungs would say. And the diaphragm isn't the only part that gives your lungs the room they need. Your rib muscles also lift the ribs up and outward to give the lungs more space.

At the same time, you inhale air through your mouth and nose, and the air heads down your trachea, or windpipe. On the way down the windpipe, tiny hairs called cilia (say: SILL-ee-uh) move gently to keep mucus and dirt out of the lungs. The air then goes through the series of branches in your lungs, through the bronchi and the bronchioles.