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February 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 32, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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That Devil Gas Is Not So Dangerous!

putting the myths to rest

from the February, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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A couple of subscribers took issue with my exhortation for everyone to start using nitrox. It obviously touched a nerve, reawakening old arguments put forward in the early '90s by the editor of Skin Diver Magazine, Bill Gleason, when he vowed that nitrox was a devil gas and he would never use it.

Long-time subscriber and diver, Chet Heddon, wrote to say that the additional time gained is "not supported by any evidence. Slightly more time, perhaps, but certainly not 'far more' time."

Well, the no-stop time on my Suunto computer, set without any cautionary personal adjustment, is 37 minutes with nitrox 21 (air) at 68 feet (21m) against 58 minutes with nitrox 32. I'd say an extra 21 minutes' dive time is significant. The relationship expands as you go deeper.

Chet also wrote that my contention that nitrox is safer than air is simply not true. "It is more dangerous than air, because it introduces oxygen toxicity and depth limitations."

(This was echoed in another email, which Bret Gilliam, founder of training agencies SDI/TDI and past president of computer manufacturer, UWATEC answers next.)

One must keep in mind that air divers are breathing nitrox 21. That is what air is, and as such, is similarly subject to oxygen toxicity and depth limitations -- currently suggested by many diving computer manufacturers to be 182 feet (56m), as opposed to nitrox 32, where the suggested depth limit is around 130 feet (40m). That many of us older divers occasionally went deeper on air simply demonstrates that exposure to oxygen toxicity is a product of both time and depth (pressure)....

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