Oxygen Cleanliness & Compatibility FAQ
Yes and no; this simple question has a complex answer because there is no widely recognized scuba diving standard for what constitutes suitability for oxygen service. Hypothetically, the equipment we sell could be used with oxygen if we describe it as Nitrox Ready, otherwise you should assume air only service. However, from the point of view of stringent U.S. aerospace guidelines and Compressed Gas Association handling standards for oxygen, nothing in general use in recreational diving is suitable for oxygen service. Using oxygen for diving requires you to make an informed decision to accept for yourself the risks of handing the oxygen. To help form your opinion about the answer read our article About Oxygen Disclaimers.
According to our suppliers, their Nitrox Ready products are oxygen compatible and oxygen clean from the factory, prior to initial use, for compressed gases greater than 23.5% oxygen. (Air is defined as containing from 19% to 23.5% oxygen.) However, most suppliers in the dive industry specify their Nitrox Ready products for use with gas mixtures containing a maximum of 40% oxygen as the upper limit. Although controversial, some dive industry professionals are of the opinion that Nitrox Ready products do not have to be dedicated to oxygen service and may be used interchangeably with CGA Grade "E" air as long as the Nitrox Ready product never contacts gas mixtures in excess of 40% oxygen.
To better understand the issues associated with handling oxygen rich compressed gas, please read Understanding Nitrox Ready.
Since Air is defined by the CGA as containing 19% to 23.5% oxygen, describing nitrogen-oxygen gas mixtures up to 23.5% as Nitrox is just an obscure way of describing ordinary Air. Gas mixtures greater than 23.5% oxygen are what most people assume to be Nitrox, and of course there is also pure Oxygen. To avoid conflict with various dive supplier labeling and any misunderstanding about exactly what constitutes Nitrox, Dive Gear Express sometimes uses the phrase "suitable for service with compressed gases containing greater than 23.5% oxygen" to describe products that are both oxygen compatible and oxygen clean prior to initial use, especially in reference to cylinders and valves.
Our suppliers tell us their equipment described as Nitrox Ready is already oxygen clean from the factory. The Compressed Gas Association standards state that equipment handling any Nitrox mixture in excess of 23.5% oxygen shall be cleaned to their standard as if the gas is pure oxygen, there is no lesser standard. That requirement is why Nitrox Ready equipment has already been oxygen cleaned by the manufacturer. SCUBA equipment is labeled 'NITROX READY' or '40% MAX OXYGEN' instead of 'Oxygen Service' because the manufacturers are managing the risks, both to your safety and their liability, associated with oxygen-related fires and explosions by specifying their SCUBA products for use only with breathing gas mixtures no more than 40% oxygen.
Nitrox Ready equipment from our suppliers is not just 'kinda sorta clean' or 'premix clean', it is oxygen clean. The practice by shops and individuals of aftermarket cleaning for new dive equipment that is already oxygen clean from the factory is pointless at best and dangerous if done improperly. Prior to initial use, no amount of aftermarket cleaning can make a Nitrox Ready product more oxygen clean nor can cleaning it ever override the manufacturer specified limits. The manufacturer can't stop you from using their equipment with breathing gases and pressures that exceed their specifications, but doing that requires you to make an informed decision to accept for yourself the risks of handing the oxygen.