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Either of two light, spongy, elastic organs in the chest, used for breathing. Each is enclosed in a membrane (pleura). Contraction of the diaphragm and the muscles between the ribs draw air into the lungs through the trachea, which splits into two primary bronchi, one per lung. Each bronchus branches into secondary bronchi (one per lobe of lung), tertiary bronchi (one per segment of lung), and many bronchioles leading to the pulmonary alveoli. There oxygen in the inspired gas is exchanged for carbon dioxide from the blood in the surrounding capillaries. Adequate tissue oxygen supply depends on sufficient distribution of air (ventilation) and blood (perfusion) in the lungs. Lung injuries or diseases (e.g., emphysema, embolism, pneumonia) can affect either or both.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on lung, visit Britannica.com.