20.9 per cent oxygen in the air is considered ideal for humans at standard temperatures and pressures. If surrounding atmospheric oxygen levels fall below 19.5 per cent, humans go through a condition known as hypoxia (low oxygen levels in the blood). Although the air is deemed oxygen-deficient, it is still considered safe to work in these conditions for a short duration. Mountain climbers, military personnel and other people who are trained to work under low oxygen levels can work smoothly under these conditions.
Oxygen deficit below 16 per cent is hazardous to human life. If oxygen levels stay low, there is a risk of abrupt unconsciousness or death with no symptoms. It is extremely hard to detect the difference below 19% as odourless gases like Carbon Dioxide(CO2), Carbon Monoxide(CO) and Nitrogen(N) replace oxygen easily.
Why Is Oxygen Detection Important?
Oxygen-related dangers are extremely harmful and can result in serious harm to your employees, worksite, and equipment.
The lack of oxygen can cause hypoxia which is the lack of oxygen in the blood. Hypoxia can lead to a condition called anoxia where the brain stops receiving oxygen. Anoxia can have severe side effects.
Many factors can lead to a lack of oxygen in the air:
- Crowded spaces like institutions and colleges
- Industries including the pharmaceutical industry that involves gases like nitrogen, carbon dioxide
- Chemical processes that involve heavy gases like carbon monoxide
- High-temperature environments
- Confined spaces like mines and tanks
- Large scale production plants like breweries
Just like Oxygen depletion excessive levels of oxygen can also cause severe hazards. High levels of oxygen can cause oxygen toxicity in humans. Oxygen toxicity can cause severe tissue damage and may become fatal after exposure to high levels.
High levels of oxygen in the atmosphere causes substances to oxidize fast as oxygen is highly reactive. Oxidation may damage chemicals produced industrially for other purposes. Oxidation also causes rust in metals which can damage machinery and equipment adversely.
Oxygen is extremely reactive with many substances and often aids in combustion. Excessive levels of oxygen can cause explosions which can be extremely hazardous.
We Can Help
If your industry involves the use of oxygen or other gases that can cause oxygen depletion you need constant gas monitoring. Our range of fixed gas detection systems can help you keep your workspace from accidents. Our fixed gas detectors are ATEX approved to operate in excess oxygen environments that are potentially explosive and flammable environments. Check out our range of fixed gas detectors now.
Confined spaces like mines and tanks may have oxygen depletion due to heavier gases like carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide and may need portable gas detectors to ensure employee safety. Get our range our portable gas detectors with infrared sensor technology designed to operate in potentially flammable environments.
Where Else Is Oxygen Used?
When we think about oxygen the first thing that runs into the minds of most people is medical oxygen. The use of medical oxygen include:-
- Breathing oxygen to support patients with respiratory disorders and diseases including COVID-19
- Oxygen therapy where tissues are exposed to oxygen for improving oxygen levels in the body
- Conditions like cyanosis, severe haemorrhage, carbon monoxide poisoning where the body needs extra oxygen
- Treatment of heart diseases like cardiac arrests
The metal smelting and steelmaking sectors continue to consume the largest amount of oxygen. Modern steelmaking relies on the use of oxygen to enrich air, raise the flame temperature in blast furnaces and substitute coke(carbon made from coal) with other combustible materials. The excess carbon mixes with oxygen during the steelmaking process to generate carbon oxides, which escape as gases.
The Pharmaceutical industry uses a lot of oxygen in the production of various medicines and drugs. Many oxidation processes employ oxygen as raw material, including the production of ethylene oxide, propylene oxide, ethylene dichloride, hydrogen peroxide, nitric acid, vinyl chloride, and phthalic acid which are all used in various industries including the pharmaceutical industry.
Oxygen is becoming increasingly essential as a bleaching agent in the pulp and paper industry. The lignin in the pulp must be eliminated during the bleaching process in order to produce high-quality bleached pulp. Although chlorine has been utilised in the past for this purpose, modern techniques that utilise oxygen prevent water contamination. In the bleaching process, oxygen and caustic soda can substitute hypochlorite and chlorine dioxide, resulting in decreased costs.