Scuba diving in the deep blue waters is an incredible experience because you get to explore a fascinating environment like no other. No matter how many times you dive, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get tired of doing it because there’s always something new and exciting to discover each time you descend beneath the waves. The boundless charm of the underwater world and marine life just never ceases to amaze. With that said, wouldn’t it be nice if you could make each dive last a bit longer? The good news is that you can maximize your time exploring the wonders of the sea or the ocean by diving with Nitrox (EANx).
What is Nitrox?
Enriched air nitrox, in terms of recreational diving, refers to a blend of nitrogen and oxygen with oxygen content more than the 21 percent typically found in normal air but not higher than 40 percent. Divers may use 21-40% oxygen and 60-79% nitrogen but the most common mixtures are Nitrox 32 (32% oxygen) and Nitrox 36 (36% oxygen).
Each Nitrox tank is distinctly labeled with a yellow and green band containing the word Enriched Air and/or Nitrox. You’ll also find the mix percentage written near the tank valve.
Background of nitrox diving
The use of nitrox was first introduced to sport divers in 1985 by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Diving Officer Rick Rutkowski but it wasn’t fully embraced by some diving enthusiasts due to possible risks. In 1991, Dr. Peter Bennett, co-editor of The Physiology and Medicine of Diving, Bove, and SkinDiver Magazine took a stand against the use of nitrox in recreational diving.
To promote a better understanding of the use of nitrox in diving, a workshop was organized by the Scuba Diving Resources Group in 1992 which focused on the EAD principle, the NOAA limits for oxygen exposure, mixing standard cylinders, and other related subjects.
In 1999, Nitrox diving became a trend among recreational divers and at that time, Nitrox dive computers became readily available. In 2001, NOAA diving manual came out with a chapter as a stand-alone course guide for nitrox diving.
At present, international dive agencies such as PADI, NAUI, and SSI support recreational nitrox training programs in addition to their traditional open-circuit compressed air scuba programs.
Advantages of Nitrox
Diving with enriched air lessens your exposure to nitrogen which in turn promotes a higher personal safety margin. The greater the percentage of oxygen in the tank, the less nitrogen you take in which reduces the risk of nitrogen narcosis. Although nitrogen narcosis is considered a temporary condition which may cause symptoms such as poor judgment, disorientation, and short-term memory loss, it may have more serious health consequences. In severe cases, a diver can go into a coma or even die.
With a lower concentration of nitrogen, you can extend your bottom time by absorbing a lesser amount of nitrogen. For instance, at 18 meters, you normally get less than an hour underwater using normal air but with 32% Nitrox, it is possible to extend your bottom time to more than 90 minutes.
You can decrease the length and frequency of surface intervals which are necessary to release the nitrogen from your body. This means that you spend less time out of the water, especially when completing repetitive dives and more time diving.
By lengthening your no-decompression limit, you can also lower the risk of getting decompression sickness or also known as “the bends” which can be a potentially deadly condition. Common symptoms include dizziness, joint pain, and extreme fatigue. The lower nitrogen levels also decreases the number of micro-bubbles in your bloodstream, otherwise known as “decompression stress” which scales down the level of exhaustion that a diver usually experiences after a dive.
Disadvantages of Nitrox
While we need oxygen to live, very high concentrations can also be harmful to the body which can result in oxygen toxicity, a medical condition attributed to exposure to oxygen at high pressure. Extreme levels of oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, convulsions, unconsciousness, breathing difficulties, eye damage, lung damage, and in extreme cases, even death.
You can avoid oxygen toxicity by carefully monitoring your oxygen limit when diving with EANx, taking into consideration the amount and length of exposure. Your dive instructor can help you compute your maximum operating depth (MOD) to avoid exceeding the safe depth limitations of your mix.
In terms of price, diving with nitrox can cost more because you are required to use certain equipment, special procedures, and analyzers. Another downside is that it may not be available in some dive centers or destinations.
Getting Nitrox certified
If you want to experience the advantages of Nitrox diving, Nemo Diving Center offers a PADI Enriched Air Certification Course. We provide proper and safe training so you can enjoy a whole new level of scuba diving in Dubai.