Enriched Air or Nitrox Diving has become common practice over the past twenty five years. There are many benefits to breathing enriched air, and some hazards. We are going to define what enriched air is, look at what it does and why you should be trained to use it.
For recreational divers, enriched air is a breathing gas that is made up of nitrogen and oxygen, the same gasses that we breathe all the time. The difference is in the percentages. Normal air is 21 % Oxygen (O) and 79% Nitrogen (N), where recreational nitrox is a blend of those two gasses where the oxygen is between 22% and 40%. Tanks of enriched air are marked by green and yellow bands wrapped around the tank in the US and many other locations, and you need training to be able to use them, but once you get the required training, there are many benefits to breathing Nitrox.
Oxygen is a gas that our bodies metabolize, this means that we use it, and therefore it does not build up in our system the same way that inert gases such as nitrogen do. By increasing the amount of oxygen in each breath, we decrease the amount of nitrogen, allowing us to dive longer while absorbing less nitrogen into our system. A common misconception is that this makes us safer, but within the recreational limits our safety margins are similar. Still, this does mean that you get more time to explore your favorite dive site.
There are some drawbacks to using enriched air however, and this is why you must receive training to use Nitrox. The biggest deterrent for the use of enriched air is that the more oxygen you have in the mixture, the shallower you have to stay. Because of this, you must analyze every tank that you breathe, even if you trust the person giving it to you, and analyzers are expensive. The cost of diving too deeply with nitrox is very steep, as it causes central nervous system oxygen toxicity which can come on suddenly and cause a seizure which will likely cause you to lose your regulator and drown. The second major drawback to using Nitrox really affects the facility offering it, as oxygen is highly reactive and increasing the percentage in breathing gasses requires handling of 100% oxygen.
This can cause a fire or explosion, which means that everything must be handled carefully and the environment it is being mixed in must be free of contaminants.
If you are interested in learning more about Enriched Air Diving, please feel free to contact us at TRY Diving (www.trydivingnow.com) or by e mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.