Being without oxygen does not always imply that the person is not breathing. Respiration of oxygen deficient atmospheres is potentially even more dangerous than obvious cessation of breathing. This is because the person may continue to function while possibly advancing more deeply into an area deficient of oxygen. Without warning, the person may be over-come by asphyxia, which is a loss of consciousness caused by too little oxygen in the blood.
In industry, a common cause of oxygen deficiency is oxygen displacement. This can occur where another denser gas has leaked and settled into an area, creating a stratum of O2 deficient atmosphere. The leaked gas may not be poisonous in itself. But its displacement of oxygen makes it extremely dangerous. In some applications, gas toxicity and O2 deficiency risks are both present.
For example, I recently toured an electric arc furnace (EAF) installation at a steel plant. In the analyzer shed, there are two large gas analyzer systems which monitor the process gas for O2 / CO / CO2 / H2. These are gases of interest in the EAF application. A sample of these process gases is continuously piped into the analyzers in the shed for analysis. A feed of nitrogen (N2) is also piped into the shed for calibration and automatic filter blow-back.
If any of the piping, valves, or other components in the analyzer shed were to start leaking, this would pose a toxic gas risk or an O2 deficiency risk (depending on what was leaking). Therefore, there are two ambient air monitors in the analyzer shed. One for carbon monoxide and one for oxygen. (The carbon monoxide is monitored because it has the highest toxicity of the major gases being produced in this application.)
- Without a pump for monitoring the diffuse atmosphere around the monitor.
- With a pump for pulling a sample from another area.
- With multiple remote sensors for monitoring several areas.
- Carbon Monoxide (CO)
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
- Nitrogen Oxide (NO)
- Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
- Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S)
- Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)
- Chlorine (Cl2)
- Ammonia (NH3)
- Hydrogen Chloride (HCL)
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