Air and Scuba Tanks - What a Beginning Diver Should Know

in Nitrogen

One of the most important pieces of diving equipment is the air contained in a scuba tanks; typically it mirrors the air we breathe every day. Specifically, it's about 80% nitrogen and 20% oxygen. Your body does not use the nitrogen. Both of these gases can cause problems when that breathed at depth.

Have you ever heard the expression, "Too much of a good thing is bad for you"? This is true for oxygen. Never fill a tank with 100% oxygen, and do not dive below 100 feet using standard air (79% nitrogen 21% oxygen) as oxygen toxicity (hyperoxia) may occur. This can do damage to your central nervous system, and also cause disorientation and breathing problems. The most serious cases can cause long-term cell damage and even death.

At around 100 feet, nitrogen narcosis(raptures of the deep) becomes a threat. Under pressure nitrogen has an anesthetic effect-which can affect your judgment and actions. You're unknowingly bringing drugs on your dive right in your scuba tanks! A diver will become reckless and anxious. Although you can learn to cope with the narcosis and still function, it's not possible to build up a tolerance, so all of deep divers should beware the risk. Nitrogen narcosis is not a problem on shallower dives, and the symptoms completely disappear as you ascend.

Perhaps the most well known and air related hazard of diving is Decompression Sickness. Decompression sickness is caused by the body absorbing nitrogen while at depth. The deeper you dive, and the longer you stay at depth, the more nitrogen is absorbed by the tissues in your body. The only way you can remove nitrogen from your system through respiration. If you follow the dive tables, or a no decompression dive plan, nitrogen can be eliminated normally.

However, if you ascend to quickly the nitrogen can form tiny bubbles which cause decompression sickness or "the bends". These bubbles often cluster in the joints causing severe pain. Because these bubbles can form in many different areas of the body, symptoms can vary. These include dizziness, weakness, tingling and perhaps the best known symptom, joint pain. The most severe cases can even result in death. If decompression is sickness suspected, get prompt medical attention. The treatment usually involves re-pressurizing the diver in a recompression chamber. Often medical personnel will accompany this treatment with medication, so never try to put a diver back in the water and treat DCS yourself! Also since the treatment typically takes hours, a diver couldn't stay in the water that long even if they had extra scuba tanks.

It's important to get your scuba tanks filled at a reputable dive shop, because without careful maintenance, contaminants such as carbon dioxide can be introduced to your tank. This can cause nausea and dizziness and even make you sick -the last thing you want when you are 50 feet underwater. If you find your air has an odor or a taste don't use that tank.

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Glen Marken has 1 articles online

Find information on sport diving, as well as read Dive Computer Reviews at Glen's new site. Good quality scuba equipment is important, a little time reading can ensure you have a safe and enjoyable dive.

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Air and Scuba Tanks - What a Beginning Diver Should Know

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This article was published on 2010/04/02