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In the first sentence of the SE question In simple terms, how does the way space suits manage breathable gas differ from how scuba gear does it? I explain:

I say "breathable gas" because what's in the tank can be a variety of mixtures and I don't know a single word for gas mixture you can safely breathe.

In the interest of biological and medical research and in deep sea diving and space exploration people have been give all kinds of gas mixtures with witch breathe to stay alive and conscious1. Sometimes pure oxygen, sometimes an oxygen-helium mix, etc.

The unifying feature would be to allow a proper amount of oxygen to the person's blood through the lungs, and otherwise "do no harm".

For water we have potable water. For air, we obviously have breathable gas.

But someone giving you a canister and saying "Here, inhale some of this. Trust me, it's breathable gas" doesn't sound reassuring.

Question: Is there a less scientific or clinical sounding yet reassuring term for a gas that's okay to breathe?

The phrase "fit to breathe air" (perhaps with some hyphenation) is not scientific or clinical and apparently means the same as breathable. But is there a less awkward construction for that or something different and yet obvious?


1here I'm excluding anesthetic mixutres or things that have other adverse or impairing effects (e.g. tear gas and worse).

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    I think inhalable would be somewhat "scientific" sounding. Breathable works fine as an informal equivalent of potable.
    – user405662
    Jun 26, 2021 at 9:05
  • But, isn't 'potable' used for water? 'Breathable' sounds a little 'unwieldy' whereas 'inhalable' sounds easy.
    – Ram Pillai
    Jun 27, 2021 at 0:18
  • @RamPillai "For water we have potable water." Yes.
    – uhoh
    Jun 27, 2021 at 0:52
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    Trust me, it’s harmless
    – Jim
    Jun 27, 2021 at 5:27
  • @Chappo Yes, I think this perfect answer is "ripe" for acceptance. Thanks!
    – uhoh
    Aug 17, 2021 at 6:22

1 Answer 1

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While not a common term, the best description that encompasses both "normal" air as well as other gas mixtures that can safely sustain a person is breathing gas.

Wikipedia gives the following explanation:

A breathing gas is a mixture of gaseous chemical elements and compounds used for respiration. Air is the most common, and only natural, breathing gas. But other mixtures of gases, or pure oxygen, are also used in breathing equipment and enclosed habitats such as scuba equipment, surface supplied diving equipment, recompression chambers, high-altitude mountaineering, high-flying aircraft, submarines, space suits, spacecraft, medical life support and first aid equipment, and anaesthetic machines.

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    Oh this works quite nicely! I don't know why I wasn't able to go from "breathable gas" to "breathing gas" by myself; it's exactly what's needed because (to me at least) it says "this gas is for breathing, you can breathe it and it will provide what you expect of a breathable gas".
    – uhoh
    Jun 26, 2021 at 9:11

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