This week in AP Bio, we began to learn about acids, bases, and buffers and how they play a role in pH. We began using pH in first year bio as well as a bit in chemistry, but we never went much into how it actually works.
The easiest way for me to understand pH is with a mental picture of a scale. pH goes from 0-14, the higher the number is; the more basic the substance is, the lower the number is; the more acidic the substance is. Water has a pH of around 7 making it perfectly nuetral, it is not really considered acidic or basic. As long as it is understood that 7 is the center pH, it is pretty easy to understand that anything below 7 would be considered and acid, while anything above 7 would be considered a base.
pH is commonly known as “the concentration of hydrogen.” Acids have more hydrogen’s than bases do, so when dissolved in water it will give away the H+ also known as the hydrogen ion. Bases do the opposite, when dissolved in water they will donate the hydroxide ion, also known as OH- .
We learned about how pH can affect athletes by looking at the pH of blood. Blood in the human body has an average pH of approximately 7.35, which is very slightly basic. When you exercise, your body creates acid known as lactic acid. The acid of course being an acid lowers the pH of your blood. In order to get the pH back to normal, you start to breathe more rapidly in order to release Co2. While most people belive it is to increase the amount of oxygen in your body, that isn’t the primary reason for the heavy breathing. The release of Co2 helps to raise the pH of your blood and get rid of the acidity. If the pH of your blood drops below 7, you can go into a coma or even die. So it is crucial not to let the pH of your blood get to acidic or too basic. We discussed how in theory it would help an athlete to hyperventilate before a game or a run or whatever it may be. Because of the release of Co2, you could make your blood more basic before you start the exercise, that way the acid would just be bringing the pH back to normal before it started to lower it further.
I am still confused on some aspects of how this all works, but this week has definitely helped me to get a base line idea of pH and what acids and bases really mean. I am sure that we will go more in depth into pH as the year goes on and I may be able to give a better synopsis of what is going on.