Nitrox Safety Protocols Appear To Be Doing The Job

nitrox tanks by Strata Chalup

Is it riskier to dive with enriched air nitrox?

Not if you follow the proper safety protocols, according to a new study by Divers Alert Network researchers that was recently published in the “Brain Injury” medical journal.

Drs. Peter Buzzacott, DAN’s Director of Injury Monitoring and Prevention, and Petar Denoble, DAN’s Vice President of Mission, analyzed the organization’s extensive injury and incident database to identify possible adverse effects of diving with nitrox.

When nitrox was first introduced to the recreational dive community in 1985, a lot of folks worried that the increased oxygen content in nitrox could cause enriched air nitrox divers to suffer central nervous system oxygen toxicity seizures and drown — specifically for divers that went beyond safe diving limits.

In this study, Buzzacott and Denoble looked at U.S. recreational diving fatalities that took place between 2004 and 2013. They found that out of 249 fatality cases where the cause of death and breathing gas were known, only a single death was found to be the result of oxygen toxicity.

Denoble noted:

“Even though it is possible some deaths have gone unrecorded, our research suggests that the number of deaths due to breathing nitrox at depth must be extremely small, compared with the many US divers that dive with nitrox and mitigate their risk of decompression sickness.”

Bill Ziefle, DAN President and CEO, said:

“This research recognizes that the training agencies, dive operators, and instructors overwhelmingly adhere to safe nitrox training, mixing, and diving protocols. The study shows that the recreational diving community has followed research based best practices in the use of nitrox and is fostering a culture of dive safety.”

Buzzacott and Denoble‘s research “is a continuation of the development of an industry-wide safety protocol for recreational nitrox use that began with the 2000 DAN Nitrox Workshop, and represents a culmination of the data collection and dive safety practices discussed during the workshop,” according to DAN.

Check out an abstract of the study here.