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This story seems like it's on its way to a happy ending: The youth soccer team and its coach in Thailand that had gone missing in the Tham Luang caves for more than a week have been found. The team had been on an outing, exploring the cave, when heavy rains hit and flooded the subterranean space. But on Monday (July 2), rescue teams located the soccer players and their coach huddled in an air pocket in the cave, according to the BBC. Now, all the rescuers need to do is get everyone out - a process that could take months because of the flooded conditions, the BBC reported. But the group has already been stuck for ten days, so how long can humans survive trapped in a cave? It depends on the type and location of the cave. But generally, running out of oxygen is not an issue, said Andrea Rinaldi, a biochemist at the University of Cagliari in Italy who, in part, researches how humans adapt and physically perform in cave environments. "Oxygen is usually abundant (in caves), even hundreds of meters below ground," Rinaldi told Live Science in an email. "It flows through cracks in the rocks, and through porous limestone." (The 7 Longest Caves in the World) That said, in rare cases, there can be pockets in caves where carbon dioxide can build up, making the air unbreathable, said Rinaldi, who is also a recreational caver, or spelunker. But these types of pockets are very different from the one that the team was found-in, he said. That pocket, Rinaldi said, is likely large, so there would be enough oxygen to sustain the group for a long period. "But air quality in the chamber is certainly a parameter that rescuers should monitor from now on," he added. If caves are very dry, for example, there can be a lot of dust in the air. And in some tropical caves, decomposing bat guano (poop) can release ammonia vapor into the air, and may also spread fungal spores, which, if inhaled, can cause respiratory issues. "Apart from these particular cases, however, the air in a cave is perfectly breathable," Rinaldi said.
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