Diving with Nitrox - Scuba diving on the safe side
Today, diving with Nitrox is a safe alternative to ordinary compressed air. Nitrox does not do away with all possible dangers, but it can certainly trim down risks.
The word Nitrox is composed of the English words nitrogen and oxygen. Since the air we breathe consists 99% of these two gases, essentially all divers with their first breath under the water surface breathe in a Nitrox mix. When diving with Nitrox, the proportion of oxygen in the breathing gas is increased - this reduces the amount of nitrogen.
What are the advantages of diving with Nitrox?
- Under water, nitrogen builds up in our body. The deeper you dive, and the longer you stay there, the higher the ambient pressure surrounding you will be. The number of inhaled nitrogen molecules increases with every meter of depth. We speak here of a nitrogen saturation, which can be the trigger for a decompression sickness.
- A second source of danger is the nitrogen narcosis. The so-called "rapture of the deep" can occur in a diving depth of + / - 30 m. Here, the narcotic effect of nitrogen on the brain may lead the diver to behave as if intoxicated. Irrational behaviour in such depths can cause serious accidents. The maximum depth of 40 m for sports divers, which all diving associations recommend, is based on these findings.
- The advantages of diving with Nitrox are therefore obvious. If the nitrogen proportion in the breathing gas is reduced, the risks involved in breathing nitrogen in high ambient pressure will also shrink. Diving with oxygen enriched air means therefore means active safety during your dive.
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What are the disadvantages of diving with Nitrox?
Any gas breathed in increased ambient pressure may be toxic or narcotic. Therefore, when diving with Nitrox, the higher oxygen content in the diving tank must be considered.
The standard mixtures in sports diving are either Nitrox 32 or Nitrox 36. The number indicates the percentage of oxygen in the breathing gas. Starting at a pressure of 1.6 bar oxygen is toxic to our nervous system, which means that with pure oxygen you could dive only to a maximum depth of six meters.
Nevertheless, this risk is relatively manageable. With a mixture containing 32% oxygen, the maximum depth is 40 m. In addition, the exposure time must be considered. In this example, our central nervous system will be saturated with oxygen only after 45 minutes, and only then oxygen poisoning could occur.
Diving with Nitrox requires a bit more planning; you must adhere rigorously to the appropriate depth, and diving with enriched air requires a specific training.
Nitrox is to all intents and purposes indispensable in today's sports diving industry. And that's a good thing! Almost all dive centers worldwide offer Nitrox, thus significantly increasing the overall safety of diving. And also regarding the divers themselves, a process of rethinking has taken place. Nitrox is the additional diving course that is most frequently booked and is usually completed immediately after the basic diving training.
About the authors
The Hagenz are Angelica and Daniel Hagen.
Angelica is a certified translator for Italian, German and English with more than 16 years of professional experience.
Daniel is a trained chef and hotel manager; 15 years he toured the world as a branch manager and diving instructor.