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Death by Nitrogen

Every year people die in nitrogen rich/oxygen


deficient atmospheres because of ignorance,
attitude and failure to adhere to safe work
practices.

Nitrogen (N2) vs. Oxygen (O2)


Nitrogen

is not toxic it exists in air at 78%.


Oxygen in the air is typically 20.8%
When nitrogen concentration increases,
oxygen concentration decreases.

Note: any compressed gas can also decrease O2 concentration in an


enclosed space by replacing O2.

Facts & Figures - Liquid nitrogen

One litre liquid gives 700 litres of gas


Cold nitrogen is heavier than air so accumulates at
ground level.
When liquid N2 is exposed to air the cloudy vapour that
you see is condensed moisture, not N2 gas. N2 gas is
invisible and this is the Danger!!!.
OHSA recommend at least 6 changes of air per hour
when using liquid N2.
Other nitrogen risks: pressure, frost, confuse LEL detectors.

Medical definitions

Osmosis: If you have a concentrated mixture on


one side of a permeable membrane and a dilute
mixture on the other, the flow of material will be from
concentrated to the dilute side.

Hypoxia : reduction of O2 supply to the tissues

Anoxia: lack of O2 supply to the tissues.

Transport of oxygen

Oxygen Osmosis

O2
O2flows
flowsfrom
fromhigh
high
concentration
to
concentration tolow
low
concentration.
concentration.

Concentration of
O2 in the lungs is
high

Concentration of O2 in
the tissues and Brain is
lower.

Oxygen is transported from the lungs to cells,


tissue and brain via Osmosis.

What happens when you breathe


in nitrogen?

O2 flows from high


O2 flows fromto
high
concentration
low
concentration
to
low
concentration.
concentration.

O2 deficient airConcentration
is
Concentration
of O2 in the
of O2 equalises throughout
the body.
inhaled
tissues and Brain is higher
than the lungs

Reverse Osmosis
Lungs take O2 from the blood stream which in turn takes it from
the brain.

What happens when you breathe


in nitrogen?
Brain becomes
starved of oxygen
you pass out.

You could say


your brain shuts you
down
It only takes one
breath!

Physiological effects
Oxygen (%vol)
23.5
21
19.5

Effects & Symptoms


Maximum Safe Level OSHA
O2 level in air
Minimum permissible O2 level (most detectors are set here or just above
it)

15-19

First signs of hypoxia. Decreased ability to work strenuously. May induce


early symptoms in persons with coronary, pulmonary or circulatory problems.

12-14

Respiration increases with exertion, pulse up, impaired muscular


coordination, perception & judgement.

10-12

Respiration further increases in rate & depth, poor judgement, lips blue.

8-10

Mental failure, fainting, unconsciousness, ashen face, blueness of lips,


nausea, vomiting, inability to move freely.

6-8

8 minutes 100% fatal


6 minutes 50% probably fatality rate

4-6

Coma in 40 seconds, convulsions, respiration ceases, death

How long does it take to have an


effect?
When

a person enters an oxygen deprived


atmosphere the oxygen level in the arterial
blood drops to a low level within 5-7 seconds.
Loss of consciousness follows in 10-12
seconds.
Heart failure and death ensue if person does
not receive any oxygen in 2-4 minutes.

What If I hold my breath?


Holding

your breath causes the oxygen in


your blood to be used up. If you then inhale
the inert atmosphere, suffocation and death
will follow in most cases (INRS ED 632)

Do I have to be in an enclosed
space to be at risk?
No.

Any situation where you can breathe oxygen


deficient air has the same effect.
Incident at Texas City where individual was
working on top of reactor. He leaned over, got a
blast of pure N2 and pitched forward into the
vessel unconscious.
Cold nitrogen is more dense than air so lower
concentration at floor level. If you lean down into a
liquid nitrogen spillage you are also at risk.

The last word.


Nitrogen is a silent killer and
demands RESPECT..!!!
PLEASE CONTROL IT AND
WORK AROUND IT PROPERLY

What if I see a colleague who is


unconscious?
Call

emergency services. - First as with all


incidents
Do not enter the area without self contained
breathing apparatus.
Over 50% of workers who die in confined
spaces are attempting to rescue other
workers.