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Old 04-27-2001, 11:35 AM
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Generally, any inert gas heavier than air. Maybe for only one breath, in an O2 rich environ. Would the gas be too heavy to exhale? Other than the asphyixiation, is there a poisoning risk? I think there wouldn't because noble gasses are inert and don't bond (except one tope of Ar)

What's the dope?
Old 04-27-2001, 11:45 AM
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Well, there's certainly no poisoning problem. Argon is the third-most abundant component of air, making up nearly 1%. I suspect that any patially-inert atmosphere would be harmless, so long as it contained the requisite 22% oxygen, but I'm not certain of that.
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Old 04-27-2001, 11:55 AM
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Not an expert or anything, but isn't everybody breathing in both Xenon and Argon? (In really small amounts)

Aren't they naturally occurring gasses? So they'd be everywhere. Just in tiny concentrations. And breathing in and out would keep the air in your lungs mixed up, so the heavier gasses wouldn't "pool" and kill you.

Breathing any gas straight would be a bad idea. (Including straight O2) But sucking down the stray Argon molecule wouldn't be so bad. (If I remember HS Chem. right, 2 Argon atoms smack together to make 1 stable Argon molecule.)(If I don't remember right then: But sucking down the stray Argon atom wouldn't be so bad.)
Old 04-27-2001, 12:35 PM
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(If I remember HS Chem. right, 2 Argon atoms smack together to make 1 stable Argon molecule.)
Argon is one of the Nobel Gases which don't combine with anything (at least under normal conditions).

I once gleefully got to point this out to a safety twit during a design review. She was worried that our argon atmosphere was going to react with some cooling water.

To address the OP:
A Diving Web Site
Heliox is a mixture of helium and oxygen used for very deep diving, usually to greater than 200 feet. Helium's great advantage is that it does not lead to nitrogen narcosis. Helium diving requires as much or more decompression time as nitrogen, so there is no saving there. Beyond 300 feet heliox may cause the 'high pressure nervous syndrome', a shaking sensation that can be incapacitating. Another disadvantage of helium is that it conducts heat about six times faster than nitrogen, so divers get colder than with air diving. A third problem is caused by the fact that helium is much less dense than nitrogen or air; as a result, the vocal cords vibrate much faster and divers sound like Donald Duck. Professional divers can use voice unscramblers to make their speech intelligible.

Overall, helium offers no advantage for recreational divers. Diving with heliox is strictly for technical and professional divers.


Several other gas mixtures have been used, such as hydrogen-oxygen, argon-oxygen, and neon-oxygen. These mixtures are all in the realm of technical and experimental diving. The goal with any non-air mixture, of course, is to dive deeper longer than can safely be accomplished with compressed air. It is apparent that, for a long time to come, recreational diving as we know it will be done only with mixtures of oxygen and nitrogen.
The opinions expressed in the above post are strictly the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Zealand Dairy Board, The Symbionese Liberation Army, or the Ministry of Silly Walks.
Old 04-27-2001, 12:44 PM
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You could safely breathe a 80-20 mix of argon and oxygen indefinitely, as far as I know. Such mixtures are sometimes used by professional divers, as argon is far less absorbable into blood than nitrogen, presenting less risk of decompression sickness.

Breathing a 80-20 mix of xenon and oxygen might prove dangerous in the long term, because xenon is substantially heavier than oxygen; the increased weight of such a mixture could possibly strain the lungs, and you might end up with pockets of a xenon-carbon dioxide mixture in the lungs that you might not be able to readily expel.

It should be safe to take a single deep breath of xenon (which will give you an incredibly deep and gravelly voice on the way back out) as long as your lungs are in good shape. It may take several breaths to clear all of the xenon back out afterwards, and I shouldn't advise strenuous activity immediately afterwards as your total gaseous exchange capacity will be somewhat compromised while the remaining xenon diffuses back out.

Neither argon nor xenon is inherently toxic. Extended attempts to breathe pure argon or pure xenon will kill you, obviously.

Argon and xenon are both noble gases. Of the six noble gases, helium and neon are not known to form compounds under any conditions, while argon, krypton, xenon, and radon can be forced to form chemical compounds with fluorine or oxygen under extreme conditions not generally to be found in the places where humans routinely travel.
Old 04-27-2001, 06:06 PM
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Xenon at STP would be narcotic if it was used to replace the nitrogen in the air (as are all essentially inert gases; "rapture of the deep"). Indeed, I believe that xenon has been used experimentally as an anesthetic (IANADOEPOOT); medical-grade xenon is so expensive, however, that it is not a practical use.
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Old 04-27-2001, 06:11 PM
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I breathed in AKron for a whole day... smelled like rubber
Old 05-01-2001, 08:37 PM
Join Date: Nov 2000
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Oooh! Oooh! You diddnt ask meee! I asked Mr. N about that and he said that you tecnicly can, you'd just have to beat your chest to get it out. and your voice would go waYYY YYY YYY low. diddnt we discuss this in Chem?
Old 05-02-2001, 07:33 AM
Join Date: Feb 2001
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Originally posted by crc
Argon is one of the Nobel Gases which don't combine with anything (at least under normal conditions).

I once gleefully got to point this out to a safety twit during a design review. She was worried that our argon atmosphere was going to react with some cooling water. [/B]
Oh, that's right. It's the atoms that end in "gen" (oxygen, hydrogen...) and "ine" (fluorine, iodine...) that forms a stable molecule from two atoms of the same element.

Unless I got that wrong, too. It's been a long time since HS Chem. Oddly, I know about the Noble Gasses not combining with anything, but I had an attack of Chemistry Ignorance and figured "Hey, they're just combining with themselves, so that doesn't count, right?"

[duh]Yeah it counts.[/duh]

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