Enriched Air Nitrox

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Nitrox refers to any gas mixture composed (excluding trace gases) of nitrogen and oxygen; this includes normal air which is approximately 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% other gases, primarily argon.[1][2][3] However, in scuba diving, nitrox is normally differentiated and handled differently from air.[3] The most common use of nitrox mixtures containing higher than normal levels of oxygen is in scuba, where the reduced percentage of nitrogen is advantageous in reducing nitrogen uptake in the body's tissues and so extending the possible dive time, and/or reducing the risk of decompression sickness (also known as the bends).

Contents

Purpose

Enriched Air Nitrox, Nitrox with an oxygen content above 21%, is mainly used in scuba diving to reduce the proportion of nitrogen in the breathing gas mixture. Reducing the proportion of nitrogen by increasing the proportion of oxygen reduces the risk of decompression sickness for the same dive profile, or allows extended dive times without increasing the need for decompression stops for the same risk. Nitrox is not a safer gas than compressed air in all respects; although its use can reduce the risk of decompression sickness, it increases the risk of oxygen toxicity and fire, which are further discussed below.

Breathing nitrox is not thought to reduce the effects of narcosis, as oxygen seems to have equally narcotic properties under pressure as nitrogen; thus one should not expect a reduction in narcotic effects due only to the use of nitrox.[4][5][note 1] Nonetheless, there are people in the diving community who insist that they feel reduced narcotic effects at depths breathing nitrox.[note 2] This may be due to a dissociation of the subjective and behavioural effects of narcosis.[6] However, it should be noted that because of risks associated with oxygen toxicity, divers tend not to utilize nitrox at greater depths where more pronounced narcosis symptoms are more likely to occur. For a reduction in narcotic effects trimix or heliox, gases which also contain helium, are generally used by divers.

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