Scuba Divers, Breathe An (Artificial) Sigh of Relief

I received my PADI certification when i was 14, although I haven't had much oppertunity to use it. I've dived a little off the coast of South Carolina and in the Florida Keys, and it was fantastic! Although, I've always wondered whether the repeated use of pressurized artificial air was a risk factor for increased lung disfunction.

But, a study by the German Naval Insitute has concluded that scuba divers, who breathe a mix of "artificial air" while underwater, do not have increased lung deterioation. Changes in lung function had been previously reported with repeated scuba diving, but reports were mixed. This study recorded the decline of participants (468 military scuba divers and a control non-scuba group ) lung function over time, measured by maximum volume expelled in 1 second.

At the start of the study, the lung function of the participants was actually greater than the average of the general population (I would guess this is because these are healthy, fit military men who are in generally better heath than the average person.). But the researchers saw no significant decline in the non-smoking scuba versus non-smoking non-scuba group.

As a side note, they DID note that smokers showed a more rapid lung function decline than non-smokers (no surprise there.) In addition the most rapid decline was seen in smoking divers.

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I might have thought the SCUBA users might have shown a slower rate of decline due to the confounders you raised, they are fit people. What is it the put in the gas to stop the bends? Helium? I might have thought that would be nice too, as I think it facilitates lung function [1].

BilZ0r said:

What is it the put in the gas to stop the bends? Helium?

Nitrogen for recreational use, helium for commercial use. I would really like to dive using heliox, but that would entail a complete career change :)

Why does helium facilitate lung function? Does nitrogen do the same? If it does I might dive with nitrox on a regular basis.

Why is there a difference in who uses helium vs nitogen in certain settings? Expense, availibility?

Expense mainly. Heliox also lets you dive deeper, which is why it is used mainly for commercial work.

Because heliox is so expensive, something called trimix is available, which is nitrogen, oxygen and helium, which is calibrated to the depth you want to dive to. Sometimes people take 2 tanks down to swap at the bottom, just to get the appropriate mix for the depths.