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February 2003 Vol. 18, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Study Finds Diving May Damage Your Lungs

from the February, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

A major study has concluded that diving is bad for the lungs, though the effect may not be significant. The research was carried out by Marit Skogstad of Norway's National Institute of Occupational Health. They tested a group of divers after one year, three years, and six years. Many only did recreational diving; more than 60 percent of dives were to less than 60 feet.

They found that various measures of lung function, such as how much air you can blow out, fell by nearly one percent a year in the divers. There is normally a gradual falloff in lung function as we age, but in the divers the decline was more than three times as fast as that of a control group of nondivers. And the more dives that people did, the faster the decline. There were also decreases in other measures of lung function, such as how fast you can blow out and how quickly gases are exchanged. But, overall, the decline was slight -- nowhere near as severe as that linked to the effects of smoking, for instance.

Skogstad says, "I don't think it is a serious problem for most divers." However, she thinks it reinforces the argument that people with lung problems, such as exercise-induced asthma, should not dive, especially in cold water.

Michael LePage, Dive Magazine

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