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April 2020    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 46, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Donít Worry about Coronavirus in Your Scuba Tank

from the April, 2020 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

We've heard a few divers are concerned that the gas in their tank might be contaminated with the Coronavirus, but you can relax.

To begin, operators are instructed to position the air intake for a compressor well away from any contamination source, such as carbon-monoxide from hydrocarbon fueled engine exhausts or smoke from a cigarette or even a spliff. The intake, normally at the end of a long pipe, is positioned to suck in 'fresh' air. On dive vessels with compressors, it's usually high up on the top deck, for example.

In the unlikely event of a Covid-19 sufferer happening to be coughing close to this intake and any droplets of body fluid (saliva or mucus) expired getting past the air-intake filter at the intake, the air then experiences heating at the first-stage of the compressor (due to the effects of compression) to an initial temperature in excess of 212įF (100įC), which we understand would destroy any virus. Even after that air has been cooled, you have surely noticed a freshly filled tank being still hot. Water vapor is also squeezed out as a by-product of compression, and this is drained off from the compressor in the form of condensate.

The chances of any virus finally reaching the compressor's main filter stack are remote. The filter of the compressor contains activated charcoal, which removes any oil flavor (provided it doesn't get wet) from the compressor itself, and a molecular sieve. So, don't worry about coronavirus getting inside your tank.

An operator, however, might exercise caution if someone with the virus had been on the premises. The chances of virus building up in the filter would be extremely hazardous for the person who changed and disposed of the filter cartridge, but this is very unlikely. And still, it would be no risk for the person who ultimately gets a filled tank.

So, don't worry about coronavirus inside your tank. Focus instead on keeping your regulator and mask clean -- and keeping a six-foot distance from other people.

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