Diver Safety Featured Headline Training/Education

DAN Researchers Publish Study on Safety of Nitrox Use

Researchers at Divers Alert Network® (DAN®) in Durham, North Carolina have been published in the journal Brain Injury for their work exploring the safety of enriched air nitrox in recreational diving.

Research undertaken by Dr. Peter Buzzacott, Director of Injury Monitoring and Prevention, and Dr. Petar Denoble, Vice President of Mission, analyzes DAN’s extensive injury and incident database, to identify possible adverse effects of diving with nitrox.  The publication of this paper is another example of how DAN works to increase dive safety through research and education.

When introduced to the recreational dive community in 1985, it was widely feared that the increased oxygen content in nitrox may cause EAN divers to suffer central nervous system oxygen toxicity seizures and drown – specifically for divers that went beyond safe diving limits. The research is a continuation of the development of an industry-wide safety protocol for recreational nitrox use that began with the 2000 DAN Nitrox Workshop, and represents a culmination of the data collection and dive safety practices discussed during the workshop.

For this study, US recreational diving fatalities occurring from 2004–2013 were examined and, out of 249 fatality cases where the cause of death and breathing gas were known, only a single death was found to be the result of oxygen toxicity. Co-author Dr. Petar Denoble, Vice President of Mission at DAN, noted “Even though it is possible some deaths have gone unrecorded, our research suggests that the number of deaths due to breathing nitrox at depth must be extremely small, compared with the many US divers that dive with nitrox and mitigate their risk of decompression sickness.”

“This research recognizes that the training agencies, dive operators, and instructors overwhelmingly adhere to safe nitrox training, mixing, and diving protocols,” said Bill Ziefle, DAN President and CEO. “The study shows that the recreational diving community has followed research based best practices in the use of nitrox and is fostering a culture of dive safety.” 

About DAN: DAN is the world’s most recognized and well respected dive safety organization, with 35 years commitment to the safety and wellbeing of divers. DAN’s research, medical services programs and global response initiatives have created an extensive network capable of providing divers around the world with vital services – from the prevention of accidents through safety programs and education to the facilitation of lifesaving evacuations. To learn more or to become a DAN member, visit DAN.org. 

Source: Buzzacott P, Denoble PJ. Possible central nervous system oxygen toxicity seizures among US recreational air or enriched air nitrox open circuit diving fatalities 2004–2013. 2017. Brain Injury Journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28128653