For the past several years, "nitrox" has been the big buzzword in the diving community. You've read about it in magazines, you've seen people diving with it, and maybe your buddies have tried it....but what exactly is "nitrox"? Well nitrox is the same stuff you've been breathing since the day you were born. Any mixture of nitrogen and oxygen is "nitrox". If you have a mixture of nitrox where the percentage of oxygen is greater than 21% (which is the percentage of oxygen in air), you have "Enriched Air Nitrox", or EANx for short.
Like most sport divers, you probably think that Enriched Air Nitrox is a relatively new and exotic breathing gas that's come about in the past couple of years. Not so...in fact, the first Enriched Air Nitrox dive was conducted in 1912, and for the past thirty years, scientific, commercial, and military divers have used EANx mixtures extensively. Enriched Air Nitrox is not a technical underwater breathing gas, nor does breathing EANx make you a technical diver. The success and popularity of EANx is due to the thousands and thousands of recreational divers using EANx since 1985!
You've also probably heard this nitrox stuff is for deep diving. Wrong again! EANx is ideal for depths between 40 and 130 feet, which is within all recreational depth limits. In fact, air is not the best gas for these depths. Remember from your Open Water Scuba class how excess dissolved nitrogen in the body's tissues is responsible for decompression illness? Since the typical Enriched Air Nitrox mixtures range from 28% to 40% oxygen, there is considerably less available nitrogen for your body to absorb. If there is less nitrogen to absorb, the risk of decompression illness is significantly decreased.
So are there other advantages to using Enriched Air Nitrox? Certainly! As divers, we limit our bottom time in order to restrict how much nitrogen our body absorbs. Since Enriched Air Nitrox has a lower percentage of nitrogen than air, you can extend your bottom time and still stay well within no-decompression limits!
|No Decompression limits|
|Depth||50 feet||80 feet|
|Air||80 minutes||30 minutes|
|EANx 32 (32% Oxygen mix)||155 minutes||45 minutes|
|EANx 36 (36% Oxygen mix)||220 minutes||55 minutes|
Some divers have the impression Enriched air Nitrox is risky. EANx does require further training and certification, but it carries the same risks as air. Both air and EANx have depth and time limitations. Oxygen toxicity is a risk for both air and EANx when used beyond their limits. Training is the key. After you have read the PADI Enriched Air Diver Manual, viewed the DVD, and completed a practical application session, where you'll learn about special tank markings, analyzer use, and dive planning, you can take the Enriched Air Diver Quiz. With dives no longer required, you can soon be enjoying the benefits of Enriched Air Nitrox!
As always, if you have more questions, please feel free to contact us!