A variety of contaminants can exist within a compressed air system that affect the quality of your breathing air. Some sources of contamination include cleaning agents, compressor oils, system leaks, inadequate filtration, and environmental variables.
Contaminants can also be introduced into a compressed air system after it has undergone maintenance, or if the system’s location has been changed. Regular testing should be conducted in order to check for contaminants, as well as before and after the installation of new air purification filters.
Proper compressed air testing checks for CO, CO2, TVHC, particles, and water vapor. All of the following contaminants present underwater dangers:
- Carbon Monoxide (CO)– Headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, impaired judgment, confusion, unconsciousness
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2)– Hyperventilation, dizziness, confusion, unconsciousness
- Volatile Hydrocarbons– Fatigue, headache, confusion, impaired judgment, numbness, cardiac arrhythmias, loss of consciousness
- Oil (Condensed)– Headache, nausea, impaired respiratory function
- Dust (Particles)– Impaired respiratory function
- Water Vapor– Nausea, vomiting, unconsciousness, progressive paralysis
It is important to note that Carbon Monoxide has no taste or smell, enabling it to go unnoticed and thus endangering divers.
Additionally, excessive moisture found in compressed air can cause problems such as:
- Malfunction of regulators
- Corrosion and oxidation of scuba tanks
- Compressor filtration degradation