At room temperature, nitrous oxide is a colourless non-flammable gas, with a slight metallic scent and taste. The short-term health effect is primarily the narcotic effect, which includes dizziness, nausea, headache, and loss of coordination. In addition, gaseous nitrous oxide is heavier than air and can be found in greater concentrations at low levels; and therefore, if allowed to displace oxygen in a confined space, can also be an asphyxiation hazard. Nitrous oxide has been associated with several side effects from long-term exposure. Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas that is commonly used as a general anaesthetic in both medical and dental surgeries. It is also used:
- as gas propellant for aerosols packaging;
- as a combustive for the flame in atomic absorption spectrophotometry;
- in the automotive industry to enhance engine performance;
- in calibration gas mixtures for petrochemical industry, environmental emission monitoring;
- industrial hygiene monitors and trace impurity analysers.
As a minimum the following steps should be ensured:
- Take care when transporting and storing nitrous oxide cylinders, ensure that valves are properly closed and that cylinders are properly restrained.
- Have adequate security to ensure cylinders are safe from theft and/or unintended misuse.
- Develop and implement clear safety procedures for nitrous oxide use including risk awareness, contingency plans, correct PPE and personnel competency.
ANZIGA is concerned that this abuse of gas continues and appears to be treated with little concern from those responsible. The risks and effects of inhalation should be promoted, and greater attention paid to restricting access.
Further information on the safety of nitrous oxide, it uses, and controls can be found in this ANZIGA Safety Advice.
This poster has been developed by ANZIGA to highlight the dangers of misuse of nitrous oxide,