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Topic: DANGERS OF NITROGEN (was RE: nitrogen flush) (3 msgs / 80 lines)
1) From: Jack Berry
All this interest in nitrogen raises a red flag for me. PLEASE BE CAREFUL
WITH NITROGEN!
Most people think of nitrogen as simply inert gas. The air we breathe
contains ~68% I think, so just how dangerous could it be? Plenty dangerous
as it turns out. Last year, nearly to the day, we lost a contract employee
where I work simply because he took a breath or two of nitrogen. He never
regained consciousness, was dead within minutes even though our EMT's
responded immediately.
When we breathe a nitrogen rich atmosphere (the kind of atmosphere that
would occur when a cylinder of nitrogen leaks into a small room or when you
sniff the aroma of a large container of coffee beans purged with nitrogen)
the nitrogen displaces the oxygen we need. Nitrogen apparently exchanges
readily with carbon dioxide in the lungs and that's the big problem. At this
point nitrogen occupies space in the cells where oxygen is normally carried
to the brain. You never know it's happening because you feel like you're
breathing normally and suddenly (within seconds!) you are unconscious.
Recovery is much more than simply trying to breathe a few times in fresh air
because of what happens in the cells. So please be very careful in the use
and storage of nitrogen.

2) From: Ken Mary
Please do not use liquid nitrogen to cool your drink either. It was "common
practise" in the chem lab where I used to work to pour liquid nitrogen into
a glass of warm soda to cool it quickly. One of the chemists was too thirsty
to wait for all the nitrogen to boil away and accidentally swallowed some.
The man became instantly "pregnant" and in severe pain. Not knowing what to
do in such cases, a coworker pressed gently on the victim's stomach and the
nitrogen exited both ends simultaneously. The victim was unhurt so everybody
had a good laugh at his expense. Needless to say, the lab supervisor put a
quick end to the practise. If any of you are wondering, I was not the
victim.
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3) From: Rick Farris
Ken wrote:
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I used to work in a superconductor research facility and one of the
scientists there would, on occasion, take a sip of liquid nitrogen and then
proceed to blow smoke for ten minutes or so!
We had access to many liquefied gases there, including liquid helium.  That
stuff is only about five degrees above absolute zero.  We tried freezing and
shattering many items, but we could never get anything harder than an egg to
shatter.  Forget that old urban legend about freezing a bolt and then
shattering it.  It ain't true. :-)
-- Rick
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