Enriched Air Misconceptions

Misunderstandings Regarding Enriched Air

Diving enriched air remains one of the most misunderstood diving activities. Here are some of the misconceptions surrounding enriched.

Divers use Nitrox to increase safety

This is not true. Recreational divers use enriched air to extend bottom time, reduce surface intervals, and increase the number of dives they can do in a day. Technical divers use enriched air to shorten decompression time.

Nitrox is safer than air

This is not true. More complex dive planning and the risk of CNS oxygen toxicity offsets any safety improvement related to decompression sickness. Always follow proper nitrox procedures when diving enriched air.

Nitrox makes you feel better

There is some empirical evidence that using enriched air helps prevent headaches and gives the diver more energy due to the higher oxygen percentage. However, this is not true for everyone. Developing proper breathing and buoyancy techniques, staying in shape, and pacing yourself on every dive are likely to be far more effective than using enriched.

You can dive deeper on nitrox.

This is totally false. Breathing more than 21 percent oxygen requires that you stay at a shallower depth. Use enriched air for shallow dives. Consider using air for recreational deep dives between 110 and 130 feet.
Nitrox reduces the risk of inert gas narcosis.

This is also not true. Oxygen is just as narcotic as nitrogen under pressure. Use extreme care when diving enriched air at deeper depths. In some cases, divers have more problems with narcosis when using enriched air. Always stay vigilant for signs of narcosis when making any deep dive.

You use less gas when diving Nitrox.

This again is totally false. Gas consumption is based upon the size of your lungs, your depth, and your activity level. Your SAC (surface air consumption) rate will not change regardless of the percentage of oxygen in your blend or oxygen partial pressures you achieve at depth. Even when we breath standard air, our bodies are not able to use all of the oxygen we take in. This is why rescue breaths are effective when someone stops breathing. While it might seem as though you might use less gas when diving with higher levels of oxygen, that is simply not the case. Check your SPG frequently throughout every dive even when using enriched air.