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September 2007    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 22, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Industrial Oxygen in My Nitrox?

from the September, 2007 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

To produce Nitrox, a dive operator must use oxygen, of course. When one of our readers, who asked to remain anonymous, learned the Honduras resort he was visiting used industrial oxygen instead of medical oxygen, he became concerned. He declined the Nitrox, went back to compressed air and when he got home, asked us whether he should have been concerned.

In short, no. In fact, that very topic was covered recently by C. Claiborne Bay in the New York Times’ Science Thursday column, about a veterinarian who found that all he could buy was industrial oxygen.

“There is practically no difference between industrial and medical oxygen,” said Ravi K. Bansal, CEO of the Airsep Corporation in Buffalo, N.Y., which produces both kinds. “The two come from the same source and are produced the same way,” he said, but to sell oxygen as medical gas, as with any prescription drug, regulations must be complied with to ensure that it is being properly dispensed and that, in the event of a recall, it is traceable with a lot number.

“It needs to be tracked, and sometimes tested if it is repackaged, as it moves along the distribution channel,” Dr. Bansal said. “Industrial oxygen contains no harmful contaminants and is separated from air by a process in which air, collected in its gaseous form, is liquefied at very cold temperatures. The different constituent gases boil off at different temperatures, making it possible to capture pure oxygen.”

If you’re using Nitrox, not matter where you dive, you may be breathing industrial oxygen. It’s cheaper, easier to obtain, and differs insignificantly from medical oxygen. In fact, medical oxygen bottles in Third World countries, and maybe a lot of other places, may have the same stuff, too.

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