Earth’s atmosphere – source of fresh air

Breathing fresh air is a natural and normal part of every day life, but looking into a clear blue sky, especially if you live in the UK, is a wonderful experience. To the inquisitive observer though, it also gives an indication of just how special the earth’s atmosphere is.

As gas tester you could often be described as the person who checks “just how blue” the sky is where they are working. By this we mean, just how clean and fresh the air is around you.

As you probably already know, the earth’s atmosphere is made up of various gases. It extends far out into space, getting “thinner” (or more accurately less dense) the further you go. The blue colour of the sky is caused by the scattering of the sun’s rays as they hit the various air molecules making it up.

Every day we wake up and never stop to think about what it is that we are breathing in, but in many work environments the air quality changes quickly due to often invisible contamination. Therefore in many situations gas testing and ongoing monitoring is required. To be able to do this, we first need to know what fresh air should contain.

So now for the first technical bit – what is our atmosphere actually made up of?

Well, the major constituents of air are as follow:

  • Nitrogen (78.1%)
  • Oxygen (20.9%)
  • Argon (0.9%)
  • 0.04% Carbon Dioxide (0.04%)
  • Water Vapour up to ~ 1.5% depending upon the humidity
  • And small amounts of other trace gases

So why do we need to know this and remember the relative amounts?

Because your first role as a gas tester is normally to confirm people are working in fresh air. Or we could say something corny like – “do you have a blue sky in your workplace” to help us remember this first basic principle in gas testing.

If we are working in fresh air with no contamination, then we can say as a gas tester that our atmosphere is safe to breath. And to be able to say that, we should really know for sure what the composition of air is.

Any questions or comments so far? If so feel free to post.


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