Diving with Nitrox is still considered relatively new, although it was invented in the 1950s and was introduced to recreational diving around 20 years ago. More and more divers find it very practical to dive with enriched air. Unfortunately, we regularly see that there is still a lot of confusion about some of its aspects. For example, some divers think that nitrox provides them with the opportunity to dive deeper when compared to regular compressed air. Therefore, it is important for all to have a clear understanding about Nitrox diving in order to stay away from any complications and hazards.
What exactly is Nitrox?
Nitrox can simply be defined as a mixture of nitrogen and oxygen gases. In here, the oxygen concentration is much higher than what you see in normal air. (Normal air contains 21% oxygen.) The tanks with Nitrox have clearly been indicated with the percentage composition. When the oxygen percentage is higher, the nitrogen percentage is lower, which provides divers with the opportunity to lengthen no-decompression limits. In addition, they will be able to enhance the surface buffer associated with decompression illness and reduce surface intervals. Typical Nitrox mixture used by most dive centers is around 32%.
Why divers use Nitrox?
When you are diving, water pressure causes nitrogen from air to dissolve into the bloodstream. When the pressure gets high, more nitrogen gets dissolved into your blood. When the nitrogen concentration reaches a particular value, you will have to come back to shallower depths or to the surface in order to stay away from decompression sickness or mandatory decompression stops. If you can replace nitrogen with some extra oxygen in your gas mixture, you will be able to experience a longer no decompression limit in depths that are usual for most recreational divers. This is the main reason that has tempted divers to use Nitrox.
How deep can we go with Nitrox?
Generally speaking, diving with Nitrox doesn’t allow you to go deeper. It extends the actual dive time at a given depth. It is very important to have a clear understanding about the risks that are associated with diving on enriched air as well. High concentrations of oxygen can lead to oxygen toxicity, so following the safe practices is a must. The maximum depth when using 32% enriched air is 34m, or 29m if you’re using a 36% blend.
What are the dangers associated with Nitrox?
As you can see, Nitrox has the potential to deliver a variety of benefits to the divers. However, there is a downside to diving with Nitrox as well that you should be aware of. As we’ve already mentioned, high concentrations of oxygen can cause oxygen toxicity. The symptoms of oxygen toxicity include convulsions, lack of coordination, dizziness, nausea, muscle twitching, trouble breathing, unusual fatigue and irritability. When the divers observe any of these symptoms, they shouldn’t panic, but they definitely need to end the dive and begin the normal ascent with a safety stop.
If we’ve made you curious and you would be interested in starting diving with Enriched Air Nitrox, we recommend you to sign up for the PADI Enriched Air Nitrox Diver course. It is a classroom course that will help you understand all aspects of diving with Nitrox. Many dive centers, including our dive resort in Padangbai, offer Nitrox blend for free to certified divers.