Is Enriched Air Dangerous

How We Keep Enriched Air Diving Safe

When I started diving nitrox in the early 1990s, only technical diving agencies taught enriched diving. The general belief at the time was that nitrox was dangerous and experimental. I recall being told horror stories of divers convulsing and drowning because they grabbed the wrong cylinder or didn’t properly mix their enriched air. Most recreational divers were convinced that nitrox was only for risk-takers.

Today things are much different. PADI and many other recreational training agencies now teach recreational divers to use enriched air. Even students in the PADI Open Water course are allowed to use enriched air on their final dive under the direction of an Enriched Air instructor. This is why Aquatic Adventures lists the Enriched Air Diver course under Specialties for beginners.

So what changed? First, procedures for properly blending enriched air and marking cylinders have reduced the chance of mistakenly using the wrong gas. Oxygen analyzers have become plentiful, reliable, and affordable. Training materials and instruction are far superior compared to 25 years ago as well.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, enriched air is widely available at resorts and major dive centers. Because it is so readily available, nearly every active diver is likely to be exposed to nitrox at some point. In part, the availability of nitrox is why your Open Water Diver material includes the warnings it does. It’s not that enriched air is so dangerous; it’s that you are likely to see it and you need to be trained before using it. That’s where the Enriched Air Diver course comes in.