DYSOX AND CLIMATIC CHAOS:
of Oxygen Issues Over Carbon
Oxygen deficit is the primary
threat to life on the planet Earth. Carbon
excess is a secondary threat to planetary life. I
expect these words to surprise most, if not nearly
all, readers. Succinctly stated, carbon
creates a mess and oxygen cleans up that mess.
This statement is also likely to raise many
eyebrows, because it might be seen as too broad and
sweeping to be considered seriously.
Scientists diligently document
global warming caused by carbon emissions from
fossil fuel, incremental global chemicalization,
devastation of human habitat, mass mortalities of
aquatic life, and extinction of species. They tell
us about melting of polar ice caps, and cooling of
oceanic conveyer belts. Environmentalists vigorously
debate issues of greenhouse gases and climatic
changes. Policy makers heatedly argue about the
significance of these changes. Politicians brazenly
distort scientific facts to promote themselves.
People all over the world now recognize these
looming threats and want to know what they can do to
counter those threats. These subjects have been
presented at length in several recent volumes, most
notably in Blatt's America's Environmental
Score-Card (2004),1 Gelnspan's
Boiling Point (2004),2 Flannery's
The Weather Makers (2005),3 Gore's
An Inconvenient Truth (2006),4
Kerry's This Moment on Earth (2007),5
and Frumhoff's Confronting Climate Change in the
U.S. Northeast (2007).6 Notably
absent in all those deliberations and efforts are
any considerations of the primacy of oxygen-related
problems (the "oxygen concerns" over the
carbon-related issues [the "carbon concerns"]).
decades, some scientists, environmentalists, and
policy makers have sought to protect human habitat
by focusing on carbon emission and global warming.
These efforts are commendable. However, their focus
on carbon—in my view—misses the essential point:
Oxygen deficit is a much more immediate and
dangerous threat to planetary life than carbon
excess. In past publications, I have
systematically related derangements of oxygen
signaling and oxygen-driven cellular energetics to
the pathogenesis of aging,7 obesity,8
cardiovascular disorders,13-17 asthma and
atopy,18-20 renal failure,21
pseudomenopause and related menstrual disorders,22-24
arrested growth in children,25
liver disorders,26 fibromyalgia.27
parasitic infestation,30 war-related
chronic illness,31 malignant disorders,32-36
Here, I address issues of climatic chaos, global
warming, and earth chemicalization issues that
adversely affect global oxygen homeotasis—crucial
issues that have not been considered in the context
of human disease.
What poisons plants also poisons
animals and that which poisons animals also poisons
people. This is the basic chemistry of oneness
that binds humans with animal and plant kingdoms.
The putative differences among species in their
responses to toxins are significant only on a small
time scale. In the larger global context, our shared
vulnerability to a poisoned environment is far more
important. Anthropogenic influences are disrupting
the elemental cycles of the planet Earth—the cycles
of economies of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, sulfur,
iron, and essential elements—to increasing degrees.
Among those disruptions, the most important involve
the oxygen cycle.
In 1998, I introduced the term
dysoxygenosis (dysox, for short) to refer to a state
of dysfunctional oxygen homeostasis characterized by
deranged oxygen signaling and impaired oxygen-driven
energetics.37-39 In subsequent
publications, I presented a large body of clinical,
microscopic, and biochemical data to show that all
symptom-complexes of chronic disorders are caused,
amplified, and perpetuated by oxygen-related
I support my view of primacy of
the oxygen concerns over the carbon concerns by
reviewing a large body of observations of natural
phenomena under the following
1. Oxygen issues and
2. Oxygen deficit is the
primary threat to planetary life;
3. Carbon creates a mess
and oxygen cleans up that mess;
4. Oxygen: an orphan
5. Oxygen and nitrogen
7. Scorched lands and big
8. Hypoxic and anoxic
9. Smog and oxygen
10. Clean energy, dirty
11. Primacy of oxygen issues over
carbon issues for aquatic species;
12. Primacy of oxygen
issues over carbon issues for land animals;
13. Primacy of oxygen
issues over carbon issues for plants;
14. Primacy of oxygen
issues over carbon issues for humans;
15. The age of mystery
16. Oxygen and the edges
of human life span;
17. Humans are not
the apex predators; and
18. What next? A world
order of ethics?
ISSUES AND CARBON ISSUES
The emphasis on the carbon
concerns is based on sound scientific data. After
years of spirited media discourse and bitter
political debate, there is emerging agreement on the
threat posed by carbon excess—and resulting global
acidification, climatic warming, and consequent
threats to life. However, it has not been recognized
that all adverse biologic effects of carbon
excess are mediated by oxygen
deficit—quantitatively, slowing metabolic pathways,
as well as qualititatively, disrupting oxygen
signaling. The crucial point here is: Victory in
the struggle with carbon issues will prove hollow
unless all relevent oxygen issues are effectively
addressed. Below, I summarize my main points:
* Human and animal cells
produce energy by oxygen-driven processes;
* Human and animal cells
are injured when their oxygen-driven
processes are impaired;
* Human and animal cells
are clogged by excess carbon;
* Clogged human and animal
cells are unclogged by oxygen;
* All forms of chronic
cellular injury involve functional oxygen
* Most forms of
cellular injury do not involve carbon
* Cellular injury caused by
carbon factors is mediated by oxygen
* Cellular injury caused by
oxygen factors generally does not involve
* Carbon factors generally
injure cells by covering them with
grease—denatured lipids embedded in cellular
waste—impeding cellular respiration,
figuratively and literally;
* Oxygen and
oxyradicals remove that grease to restore
cellular respiration; and
* The fundamental
energetics of aerobic life—humans and
animals inspire oxygen and expire carbon—are
identical. So, it follows that what injures
humans also injures animals, and vice versa.
DEFICIT IS THE PRIMARY THREAT TO PLANETARY LIFE
Oxygen is the organizing
principle of all aerobic life on the planet
Earth. This statement may be considered
strident—even a leap of imagination, unsupported by
scientific facts. Students in all fields of biology
learn about fundamental oxygen-driven
cellular energetics. Then their interest in the
subject wanes. Deranged oxygen signaling and
impaired Krebs cycle chemistry are at the roots of
all chronic disorders. Zoologists and
botanists consider the problems of oxygen
homeostasis only in a perfunctory manner—therapeutic
interventions for oxygen issues are not in vogue in
their respective disciplines. The case of human
sickness is different and compelling. There is a
profound irony here. Physicians in clinical practice
seldom, if ever, show any curiosity about the Krebs
cycle derangements as the basis of clinical
symptom-complexes they encounter in their patients.
They simply prescribe drugs to suppress symptoms.
Marine biologists consider oxygen issues but also
fail to recognize the primacy of the oxygen issues
over the carbon issues.
Historically, we physicians have
had little, if any, interest in understanding the
issues of biology and ecology of animal and plant
kingdoms. Now the large and looming threats of
global warming, incremental global chemicalization,
and climatic changes require that we seek a broader
and integrated view of oxygen homeostasis on the
planet. All life on the planet is in
jeopardy. The oxygen issues of humans can no longer
be separated from those facing animals and plants. I
began Oxygen and Aging (2000)40
with the following words:
dysfunction, in my view, is the single most
important threat to human health. Cellular
oxygen metabolism is put in jeopardy by a
growing number of nutritional deficiencies,
metabolic roller coasters, synthetic
chemicals, and lifestyle stressors.
[individuals with chronic disabling energy
deficit syndromes] tell all of us
something about the shape of things to come.
No one is immune to what poisons them.
It is merely a matter of time. As poisons
accumulate to paralyze oxygen metabolism,
everyone can be expected to become a canary.
This is not a doomsday prophecy. In my
travels from Beijing to Bankok, from Moscow
to Nairobi, from Oslo to the Honduras, I
have seen human canaries of all colors, of
all shapes, and of all ages. Everywhere I
went, I saw human canaries in increasing
numbers. This book in that sense is a
wake-up call about the pandemic of
dysfunctional oxygen metabolism.
In the past, we physicians have
not been ecologic thinkers. We must be now. My main
point in Oxygen and Aging was to underscore
the importance of keeping oxygen homeostasis at
center stage in making all clinical
management decisions. The rate of predicted climatic
changes is expected to increase, worsening the
degrees of dysox in chronic environmental,
nutritional, infectious, and stress-related
disorders. For these reasons, and to foster a deeper
understanding of the energetic basis of clinical
disease, we physicians must closely examine the the
issues of dysox and climatic chaos as intricately
connected twin global threats to all life on the
planet. It is essential to develop a broad
integrative perspective on issues of anoxic waters,
massive kills of the aquine species, and mass
mortalities of land species (disappearing frogs,
missing amphibians, collapsing colony disorder of
bees, and decimation of the world's butterflies).
CREATES A MESS AND OXYGEN CLEANS THAT MESS
My essential argument here is:
Carbon covers cells with grease while oxygen and
oxygen-derived radicals serve as molecular
detergents, penetrate that grease, remove it, and
permit cells to breathe again—figuratively and
literally. I do not take poetic license with facts
of biology. In the process of living, cellular
grease—debris embedded in rancid fats and disfigured
proteins— accumulates on the cell membranes, matrix,
and mitochondria. In health, oxygen oxidizes and
breaks up the grease, allowing cells to "breathe"
again—literally and figuratively—restoring the
gating functions of cell membranes, matrix-based
regulatory signaling, and mitochondrial ATP
generation. This basic order of biology prevails in
all human, animal, and plant cell populations.
For human biology, nature
subordinated the "carbon chemistry" to the "oxygen
chemistry." It established the same heirarchy
concerning the chemistries of nitrogen, sulfur,
iron, and other elements. I presented these subjects
at length in Darwin, Oxygen Homeostasis, and
Oxystatic Therapies, the tenth volume of The
Principles and Practice of Integrative Medicine.41
Carbon is used to build chemical bond energy. Oxygen
both regulates that process and breaks down these
bonds to release energy. Carbon toxicity poisons the
environment—by acidification with carbon dioxide,
for instance—and threatens human and animal life by
the same final pathways of tissue injury: disruption
of oxygen signaling and oxygen-driven cellular
energetics. However, oxygen homeostasis is a vast
ever-changing kaleidoscopic mosaic with elaborate
adaptive and self-correcting mechanisms that protect
it from threats posed by a carbon chemistry run
amuck—global warming, acid rains, incremental burden
of industrial pollutants, pesticides, radiation, and
lifestyle stressors. Chronic environmental and
nutritional illnesses essentially begin when the
oxygen-driven detoxification pathways of the body
I cite the case of water
stratification to elaborate my point that oxygen,
not carbon, completes the story of disease and
death. In a large lake, the surface water is aerated
and oxygenated. On the lake floor, water becomes
nutrient-rich as plankton and algae release minerals
from the lake bed and build nutrients, using
chemical bond energy generated by photosynthesis. If
such water strata were to be left undisturbed, the
aquatic life in oxygen-rich surface water would
sicken and die because of malnutrition, and species
in the deep nutrient-rich, oxygen-depleted water
would die of suffocation. Nature regularly and
vigorously mixes surface and deep waters—by, let's
say, monsoon storms—to prevent mass extinction of
species in that lake. Nature is also cyclical.
During some periods, water stratification persists
due to absence of sufficient storm activity, and
mass mortalities do occur in aquatic species.
However, such disruptive natural weather cycles are
generally followed by others with strong restorative
influences. The problem now is that those natural
cycles are being disrupted with increasing frequency
by anthropogenic influences.
4. OXYGEN: AN ORPHAN ELEMENT
In human spheres, oxygen has no
guardian angel. No one makes money from discussing
it in the media. Politicians are blissfully ignorant
about oxygen—no surprise, their ignorance is painful
only for others. Drug makers have not yet discovered
how to earn billions by deceiving the public with an
"oxygen pill." There are some who push liquid
oxygen, however, their deceptions are puny. As for
doctors, their silence in this area is deafening—a
sad state of affairs since diseases are
fundamentally caused by clogged oxygen-driven
energetics and by deranged oxygen signaling. What is
surprising here is the absence of scientists in
oxygen issues of our time. Oxygen continues to be an
Why did the larger threat of
oxygen deficit escape the notice of biologists,
physicians, and the public? There are many reasons.
Carbon pollutants were more visible—black smoke from
industrial chimneys is hard to miss, soot in diesel
exhaust is not easy to escape—and their adverse
effects on planetary life were very visible. So,
concerns about carbon excess were raised early by
scientists and recognized by many in the general
public soon after. The story of oxygen deficit has
been quite different. First, absence of invisible
substances is not likely to be noticed as readily as
the presence of dirty and smelly carbon substances.
Second, carbon pollutants were easily traced to
industries. By contrast, the corporations that
contributed to oxygen deficit were hard to pin down.
Third, the professionals who should have been the
first to recognize the direct and dire consequences
of oxygen deficit were least prepared to do so—the
doctors. The chemistry of the Krebs cycle—the
primary cycle of energy generation in cells—appears
in the first year curriculum of medical students,
and then disappears forever. Except for a handful of
integrative physicians, doctors never
investigate and address issues of impaired or
blocked cellular energetics. Fourth, even when
unequivocal evidence for chronic and unrelenting
illness caused by oxygen deficiency is forthcoming,
it does not fit into the prevailing model of
treating and "preventing" diseases with synthetic
chemicals. There are simply no drugs to treat
clinical problems created by oxygen deficit.
5. OXYGEN AND NITROGEN ECONOMIES
Carbon has been the
darling of environmentalists and earth scientists.
It has drowned all voices about nitrogen issues.
Oxygen has not had anyone to champion its cause so
far. The "oxygen economy"—production matched by
consumption—of the planet Earth evolved over a
period of more than three billion years. Oxygen is
mass-produced by phytoplankton and macroalgae in
aquatic environments, primarily by splitting water
molecules. The development of this reaction by
harnessing solar energy was the defining event in
the history of biology on the planet. Oxygen is
utlized by bacteria and all other organisms
(zooplankton, algae, fish) that consume oxygen by
respiration. Ecologic balance between oxygen
production and consumption in different regions of
the world is defined and preserved by the prevailing
geologic, ecologic, climatic, and predator-prey
dynamics of extant species.
Animal and plant species crawled
from water to find their habitat on dry lands.
(Could this be the origin of human fascination with
bodies of water around them?) The move from the
water to the land called for myriad adaptations,
which evolutionary pressures provided with stunning
diversity. It is a most remarkable fact of biology
that the enormous range of speciation observed today
was energetically sustained by essentially two
modes: oxygen-driven high-efficiency human
mitochondrial ATP generation and low-efficiency,
largely oxygen-independent fermentative ATP
production. This is a crucial subject. In previous
publications,37-39,42 I demonstrated that
the respiratory-to-fermentative shift in ATP
generation and deranged oxygen signaling are the
fundamental molecular lesions that produce myriad
Another important consideration
is that of the fundamental oxygen economy of
large bodies of water and landmass that did not
significantly change over the past millions of
years—until modern times. Then began the era of
dysox and climatic chaos. A diligent study of the
records of the oxygen conditions at the micro
levels—mitochondrial energy generation and related
phenomena—as well as at macro global levels clearly
reveals an inexorable shift to the primordial,
low-efficiency, fermentative mode of metabolism
(described at length in Darwin, Dysox, and
Disease, the eleventh volume of The
Principles and Practice of Integrative Medicine.43
Of course, the current shifts in carbon economy of
the planet Earth are compounding the problems of the
In high school, I was taught that
nitrogen is an inert element. That is not true.
Nitrogen is leached into groundwater and so enters
drinking water, often reaching concentrations that
are deleterious to human health. Nitrogen is
converted into nitrite, which has recognized toxic
effects. For example, nitrite reacts with hemoglobin
to form methemoglobin, a form that cannot carry
oxygen. Under some clinical conditions, accumulation
of methemoglobin can reach a point when it literally
suffocates the individual. Nitrite also is converted
into nitrates by the bowel microbiota. Nitrates have
well-established toxic effects, including
Human-related nitrogen shifts
largely involve its movement from land to water,
both surface or ground water. Nitrogen travels with
agricultural efflux, storm drains, sewage pipes, and
other types of surface runoff. Agribusinesses apply
large quantities of nitrogen to the soil for
maximizing production, with strong short-term and
devastating long-term results. Such application
generally far exceeds the nutrient required by
crops. Regrettably, regulators who are expected to
minimize nitrogen build-up are themselves
regulated—paid off, to be blunt—by the polluters.
The combustion of fossil fuels is
major source of anthropogenic contributions to
atmospheric nitrogen pollution. Acid rains add to
atmospheric deposition of nitrogen on lands and
water. This problem used to be attributed to highly
industrialized regions of the world. This view, in
my opinion is not tenable anymore considering the
rapid globalization of environmental pollution.
Nitrogen is released into the air because of ammonia
volatilization and nitrous oxide production further
adding to Earth's nitrogen load.
As for the nitrogen economy of
the planet, it is a foundational component of living
organisms.44,45 However, in many Earth
systems, it is in short supply in readily
assimilated forms for plants in both aquatic and
land ecosystems. As a consequence, it serves as a
rate-limiting factor in restraining primary
production in the biosphere, and, therefore, a
limiting factor for growing crops for human use.
Humans are significantly and negatively affecting
the nitrogen cycle. In some ways, the nitrogen cycle
is intricately involved with the carbon cycle of the
planet, each feeding the other. The production and
industrial use of artificial nitrogen fertilizers
worldwide have greatly increased food production,
but it has also caused serious environmental
problems, including eutrophication of terrestrial
and aquatic systems (discussed below), global
acidification, and chemicalization.
In the 1990s, the anthropogenic
nitrogen addition to the environment amounted to
more than 352 billion pounds (160 teragrams, Tg = 1012
gm) of nitrogen per year. Globally, this
amount is more than that supplied by natural
biological nitrogen fixation on land (110 Tg of
nitrogen per year) or in the ocean (140 Tg of
nitrogen per year). Undoubtedly, such nitrogen
burden will continue to grow due to predicted
increases in the world population, energy demands of
people, and consequent anthropogenic nitrogen
fluxes. Indeed, it has been predicted that humans
will double the turnover rates of the terrestrial
The manifold consequences of
anthropogenic influences over the planetary nitrogen
cycle have been investigated by many regional and
international research groups. However, few efforts
have been made to examine the interactions of
nitrogen with other major biological and geochemical
cycles, especially the effects on the carbon
economy. Remarkably, there have been no studies
of the interactions of the nitrogen cycle on the
oxygen cycle (economy) of the earth system.
Eutrophication is the phenomenon
of increased growth of vegetaion due to nutrient
build-up in ecosystems, both aquatic and land-based.46-49
In most instances, it involves the accumulation of
compounds containing nitrogen and phosphorus. Excess
of nutrients generally sets the stage for increased
primary productivity— excessive growth and decay of
vegetation—of the ecosystem. Diverse consequences of
eutrophication include a lack of oxygen and
diminished quality of water. Not unexpectedly,
eutrophication often severely affects the
populations of fish and other species.
During eutrophication, the
patterns of growth of aquatic vegetation (plankton
and algae) are often markedly altered by an influx
of large quantities of nitrogen, phosphorus, and
other nutrients, causing disruptions of the regional
ecologic conditions and increasing the supply of
normally growth-limiting nutrients. These changes
cause major shifts in the species composition of
ecosystems by influencing the competitive struggle
for resources among extant species. For example, an
increase in nitrogen availability can allow species
newly arriving in an ecosystem to invade, rival, and
out-compete original inhabitant species. This has
been documented in many regions of the world. In
discussions of eutrophication, oxygen is seldom, if
ever, duly considered because marine biologists
generally do not view oxygen as a crucial nutrient.
Eutrophication has many
documented adverse ecological effects: amplified
biomass of toxic phytoplankton, increased blooms of
gelatinous zooplankton, decreased biomass of certain
algae (benthic, epiphytic, and others), altered
populations of some species, reduced water
transparency (increased turbidity) with
consequential changes in water characteristics, and
increased incidences of fish kills. All of these
factors decrease, directly or indirectly, the amount
of dissolved oxygen in water, increasing the degree
of Eutrophication. Among the three most
consequential changes of overstimulated growth of
some species at the expense of others are: (1)
diminished biodiversity; (2) altered changes in
species composition and dominance; and (3) toxic
In the basic oxygen order in
aquatic ecosystems, oxygen is released during
daylight hours by photosynthesizing plants and
algae. Oxygen is utilized by all respiring plants
and marine species.
Under eutrophic conditions, the
amounts of oxygen dissolved in water increase
substantially during the day, and decrease
substantially after dark as it is picked up by the
respiring algae and microorganisms that feed on the
increasing mass of dead algae. When the eutrophic
balance is disturbed and dissolved oxygen levels
decline to hypoxic levels, fish and other marine
animals sicken and die of suffocation. All species
are affected, albeit to varying degrees, most
prominently the immobile bottom dwellers. In extreme
instances, hypoxia progresses to anoxia—anaerobic
conditions that foster growth of anaerobes, such as
Clostridium botulinum, which produces deadly toxins
that kill birds and animals. Zones affected by such
extremes are designated as dead zones.
When an ecosystem accumulates
excess nutrient load, the primary producers of that
system reap the benefits first. In marine systems,
algae are commonly the first species to overgrow, a
phenomenon called an algal bloom. Such blooms can
reach proportions enough to significantly limit the
sunlight available to the bottom-dwelling organisms,
causing wide fluctuations in the amounts of
dissolved oxygen in the region.
In stable ecosystems, some
nutrients serve as rate-limiting factors for some
but not all species. So, differential availability
of various nutrients influence the competitive
struggle for resource allocation. Eutrophication
alters such competitive balance, favoring some
aquatic species with an excess of choice nutrients.
This results in shifts in the species composition.
For example, an increase in nitrogen allows newly
introduced species in an ecosystem to invade,
out-compete, and overwhelm native species. This has
been documented in certain New England salt marshes.
Food for some is poison for
others. This observation concerning humans and their
foods made by some physicians of antiquity is
applicable also to various ecosystems of the planet.
Some algae produce specific compounds which, when in
excess during algal blooms, become toxic not only to
aquatic species but also to humans, animals, and
plants.50,51 Colloquial terms used for
such algal blooms include nuisance algae and
harmful algal blooms. Not unexpectedly, such
toxic substances travel up the food chain, causing
disease and death among other species. For example,
freshwater algal blooms are known to have killed
livestock. Notable among such toxins for humans are
neurotoxins and hepatotoxins. Such biotoxins
produced in excess during algal blooms are consumed
by shellfish (mussels, oysters, and others),
resulting in human food poisoning, such as
paralytic, neurotoxic, and diarrhoetic shellfish
poisoning. Other aquatic vectors for such toxins—
ciguatera, for example—are ingested by predator fish
that accumulate the toxin and later poison humans
when the poisoned fish is consumed.
7. SCORCHED LANDS AND BIG THAWS
Planetary oxygen homeostasis is
put in jeopardy when some of the planet's lands are
scorched and when others are thawed. Scorching kills
vegetation and so stops the release of oxygen from
plants. Thawing of frozen lands (permafrost)
initially makes more oxygen available through
availibility of water. However, the long-term
consequences of the loss of permafrost result in
markedly diminished availibility of oxygen by
diverse mechanisms, as I explain below.
An increasing number of regions
in the world face an ever-growing problem of
spreading deserts, called desertization (defined as
increasing desert-like conditions in arid and
semi-arid lands).52-54 Desertification,
sandification, and desiccation are other terms
sometimes used for the process. There are many
causes of this phenomenon but few, if any,
solutions. The Sahara desert of northern Africa is
the largest desert in the world, and it is expanding
at the rate of 1km/yr. Some sense of the enormity of
this problem may be gained by one estimate that a
15-mile wide and 1370 miles long forest wall is
needed to prevent southern spread of the desert.
Global warming unquestionably will deepen the
problem in African and many other regions in the
world. Climatic changes, humans, and livestock are
considered as the main culprits.
As for big thaws, consider the
following quotes from a 2008 report concerning
climatic changes in Mongolia published in Science55:
Global warming is not a
uniform process. Mongolia, particularly at
the high altitudes around Lake Hovsgol, has
been warming more than twice as fast as the
global average. Unique ecosystems are
feeling the heat...Winter temperatures in
Mongolia have increased a staggering 3.6°C
on average during the past 60 years. The
mountains are losing their snowcaps, and the
glaciers on the northern shore are
temperatures in summer are thawing the layer
of permanently frozen soil, or permafrost,
and disturbing the soil structure around the
shallow tree roots...
Here at the transition
between steppe grassland and taiga, plants
and animals are confronted with a changing
environment--and the outlook is not good for
the herders who are crowding up from the
south...If land-use patterns were the only
change, Mongolia's predicament would not be
so dire. But now the land itself is
Increased a staggering 3.6
oC on average! Disturbing the soil
structure around the shallow tree roots! Nature
perfected its balancing act over millions of years.
Now it is being disrupted within decades. Life
simply cannot evolve fast enough to survive such
sweeping changes. Now consider another quote from
As permafrost retreats
deeper or disappears, the ground becomes a
giant sponge that wicks water away from
plant roots. That sets big changes in motion
topside. Taiga and permafrost always go
together...You can't have one without the
other. Hovsgol's taiga forest is growing
patchier. And without the insulating tree
cover soil warming accelerates.
The ground becomes a giant
sponge! Two points need to be recognized here.
First, stagnation in the massive sponge suffocates
life in the sponge. Second, eventually all wet
sponges dry up when the supply of fluids that
saturates them dries up.
8. HYPOXIC AND ANOXIC WATERS
Hypoxia is oxygen deficit.
Hypoxic waters are bodies of water with deficiency
of oxygen. Anoxia is absence of oxygen. Anoxic
waters are bodies of water with an absence of
oxygen. Hypoxia develops in aquatic environments as
the amount of dissolved oxygen (molecular oxygen
dissolved in the water) falls to a level that is
detrimental to fishes and other forms of
oxygen-breathing aquatic species.56-59
The temperature and salt content (salinity) of
bodies of water determine the amount of oxygen
dissolved in the water. So, the value of dissolved
oxygen is expressed as a percentage of the amount of
oxygen that would dissolve in the water at the
prevailing temperature and salinity. An aquatic
ecosystem without dissolved oxygen (0% saturation)
is designated as an anoxic aquatic system. Dissolved
oxygen is measured in standard solution units of
millimoles O2 per liter (mmol/L), milligrams O2.
At 20 °C under sea level atmospheric pressure, the
value of dissolved oxygen in freshwater is 9.1 mg/L,
a value that is designated as 100% saturation. The
U.S. Geological Service (USGS) offers at its web
site solubility tables showing the values, in
milliliters per liter [ml/L], based upon temperature
and corrected for different salinities and
It is noteworthy that most
species of fish cannot survive in waters with
dissolved oxygen saturation of less than 30%. For
optimal sustenance of oxygen-utilizing life forms,
an aquatic ecosystem must not develop oxygen
deficits that allow the dissolved oxygen levels to
fall below 80%.
Are natural bodies of water
sometimes supersaturated? Can excess dissolved
oxygen in water can sometimes be harmful for fish,
aquatic animal species, and aquatic vegetaion? Not
much has been documented in this area. However, it
is known that oxygen supersaturation does develop
under certain conditions and causes decompression
damage to aquatic life.
Algae and related aquatic
vegetation called phytoplankton in the water mass
release oxygen by spliting water into hydrogen and
oxygen in the process called photosynthesis. On the
other side of the equation, oxygen is picked up and
metabolized by bacteria, fish, and organisms
included in the category. This is the essential
"oxygen balance," not only in aquatic ecosystems,
but on land masses as well. In oceans, seas, and
large lakes, the equilibrium between the two
mechanisms for the release and consumption of oxygen
determine the amount of oxygen dissolved in the
water which, in turn, determines the aquatic biomass
(the total mass of living species, vegetative as
well as animal species). I might add here that the
difference between the amount of oxygen in the water
(theoretical concentration if there were no living
organisms) and the actual amount (concentration) of
oxygen is designated as the biological demand of
The climatic changes documented
so far are deepening the "oxygen crisis" in most
bodies of water in the world. If the current trends
hold, the predicted climatic chaos will dangerously
enlarge the bodies of anoxic waters with dire
consequences for life within them. There are several
mechanisms by which global warming, incremental
carbonization of oceans and land masses, and
chemicalization of the planet decreases the amount
of dissolved oxygen saturation in water.
Specifically, such mechanisms include the following.60-62
* Warm water holds less oxygen;
* Eutrophication (increased growth
of plankton and algae due to addition of nitrogen,
phosphorus, and potassium in water) reduces the
amount of oxygen dissolved in water;
* Persistence of stratification in
large bodies of water, as described earlier,
disrupts oxygenation of deep waters;
* Higher air temperature
intensifies the density stratification of
water making it less dense and relatively
* Solar warming of the surface
water reduces water density and causes anoxia;
* Saltier water increases
the density of water;
* Change of direction of
the wind can cause significant local
upwelling of the anoxic bottom water (wind
can actually drag the surface water away
from shore, replacing it with deeper water);
* Increasing anthropogenic nitrogen
Energetic tidal circulation; and
effect (a rapid change in water density with
In the large bodies of fresh
water, the density change is essentially caused by
changes in the temperature, while in the oceanic
waters the density change is caused by changes in
water temperature and/or salinity.
For further information on the
above subjects and specific data concerning the
extent and duration of harmful algal blooms (Microcystis
aeruginosa) in the Potomac River, the reader is
referred to www.marine.unc.edu/modmon
Anoxia develops in sea waters
under natural conditions. Anoxic sea water is
generally found in regions of restricted water
exchange. In general, oxygen does not reach the
depths of the sea area due to a physical barrier,
such as silt and extended periods of density
stratification. Such conditions allow bacteria to
increase their rates of the oxidation of organic
matter, thus increasing oxygen utilization beyond
the supply. For example, the occurrence of markedly
anoxic conditions have been documented in the
geological history of the Baltic Sea. Recent
evidence shows that increasing degrees of
eutrophication have increased the degrees of the
anoxic regions in the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of
Anoxic states are created by
water stagnation, density stratification, influx of
organic matter, thermoclines, and bacterial
metabolism of sulfide. Sulfur compounds settle in
the sediments and later rise into the surface
waters. Recent reports of anoxic waters are
disturbing both for the degrees of oxygen deficit
and for the frequency with which such deficits are
encountered, especially the findings of fatal anoxia
in the bodies of water in which anoxia was not
previously present. For example, in February 2008,
severe anoxia was detected for the first time in the
northern California current system, an enormous
ecosystem with no previous record of extreme oxygen
deficits.63 The severity of anoxia raises
the specter of rapid and discontinuous ecosystem
changes in highly productive coastal systems that
sustain the world's fisheries.
In 1888, Lajos Winkler, a
Romanian chemist, developed a method of determining
the level of dissolved oxygen in water samples.64
The test is designated as the Winkler test. It is
interesting to note that the subject of the oxygen
content of large bodies of water (and its effects on
life in them) preoccupied a Romanian student as far
back as the end of the nineteenth century. Yet, it
holds little, if any, interest for doctors today,
notwithstanding the central importance of oxygen
factors in the pathogenesis of all chronic
9. SMOG AND OXYGEN DEFICIT
The story of smog has many
interesting faces: clinical, historical,
biochemical, environmental, and political. The
clinical problems associated with poor quality air,
first and foremost, should have been related to
problems of oxygen homeostasis in health and
disease. What could be simpler than that? Why do we
breathe except to bring oxygen in and expel the
produced waste. It both amused and saddened me when
I read a large number of articles about smog posted
by governmental, public, environmental, and academic
groups. For three hours, I read and read without
finding a single reference to smog disrupting oxygen
signaling and oxygen-driven cellular energetics.
Inexplicably, the literature of smog evolved into a
literature of ozone in ambient air.
For public education, the United
States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
developed an Air Quality index to explain the
degrees of air pollution. For reasons that escape
me, it built its entire case around the eight-hour
average concentration of ozone in the air, as if the
sulfur and nitrogen pollutants do not matter. The
EPA promulgated the following standards:
85 to 104 ppbv (parts per billion
by volume): Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups
105 ppbv to 124: Unhealthy
125 ppbv to 404 ppbv: Very
Smog, in reality, is much more
than just the concentration of ozone in the air. It
is the sum total of all noxious and toxic elements
that exist in the ambient air at any given time. Did
the folly of fixating on ozone levels lead to the
disastrous proclamation on September 15, 2001 of
Christie Whittman, the then EPA chief when she
declared that air in New York was safe to breathe,
following the inferno of collapsed World Trade
Centers (WTC). That comment stirred me to action and
culminated in the publication in early 2002 of my
book September Eleven,2005 (2002),65a
volume of predictions written in a fictionalized
past tense. I had three primary reasons for writing
1. To predict that more
than 250,000 people exposed to the poisons
released from the WTC inferno would become
chronically ill due to 9/11-related causes
in September 2005;
2. To assert that at the
levels of oxygen signaling and oxygen-driven
cellular energetics, terror turns into
toxicity, and toxicity into terror;
3. All patterns of
chronic illness triggered by 9/11-related
events would be fundamentally caused by
disruptions of the oxygen signaling and
oxygen-driven cellular energetics;
4. Much of 9/11-related
illness could be prevented by robust
integrative treatment plans that restore
deranged oxygen signaling and oxygen-driven
cellular energetics; and
5. Regrettably, the
fundamental oxygen issues of the 9/11
tragedy would be ignored by the prevailing
one-disease-one-cause-one-drug model of
In 2008, anyone who reads
September Eleven, 2005 will recognize the utter
logic and predictability of events that I foresaw.
In September 2001, I knew that the EPA and the
mainstream medicine would stubbornly refuse what
Londoners of the Roman times knew: Pollutants in the
air sicken the people who breathe it. Indeed, The
New England Journal of Medicine considered the
9/11 events "not necessarily medical significant"66
and advised its readers not to "medicalize"67
them (see September Eleven, 2005 for full
The English claim the origin of
the term "smog"and attribute it to Dr. Henry Antoine
Des Voeux in his 1905 paper entitled "Fog and Smoke"
presented at a meeting of the Public Health
Congress.68 On July 27, 1905, the London
newspaper Daily Graphic celebrated the paper,
writing that Des Voeux had done a public service in
coining a new word for the London fog. Californians
challenge that claim, citing the use of the word
"smog" by Los Angeles Times on January 19,
1893. The English need not feel up-ended since the
Times attributed it to "a witty English
writer." The Londoners have sound reasons for
amusing themsleves with the assertions of Angelos.
Since the Roman times, they have recognized this
distinction. In 1306, King Edward I briefly banned
coal fires in the city. In 1661, John Evelyn's
Fumifugium blamed burning coal for what people
considered to be London cough. In 1952, The Great
Smog darkened the city sreets and killed
approximately 4,000 people in four days, claiming
another 8,000 during the days and weeks that
followed it. Some readers might find the following
text I found in Transcultural Psychiatry69
interesting in the current context:
Reports of occupational
mass psychogenic illness (OMPI) in the
scientific literature were examined to
describe underlying presentation patterns
and explain their sporadic appearance in the
literature. Three distinct patterns were
identified: (i) mass anxiety hysteria is
precipitated by the sudden appearance of an
anxiety generating stimulus following the
redefinition of an innocuous or imaginary
odour or agent that is perceived as an
immediate threat; (ii) mass motor hysteria
is characterized by internalized conflict
which fosters dissociation, histrionics and
psychomotor agitation. Episodes are typified
by an atmosphere of pre existing tension and
employee dissatisfaction with restrictive
management practices coupled with inhibited
negotiation channels; (iii) a third
presentation pattern involves the
relabelling of endemic symptoms and the
occasional appearance of conversion
reactions, which are reinforced by a
hypervigilant medical community and
exacerbating factors. Social factors may
explain the irregular appearance of reports.
Notice, the author does not
recognize any oxygen-related issues in his discourse
on what he designates occupational mass psychogenic
illness. Simple tests done to measure the urinary
excretion of the metabolites of Krebs cycle and
glycolytic pathways, mycotoxins, and hippuric acid
in the subjects of his study would have shed much
light on what was observable and documentable in the
chemistry of those afflicted by the putative
occupational mass psychogenic illness.
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