In 1942–43 the UK Government carried out extensive testing for oxygen toxicity in divers.
Oxygen toxicity is a condition resulting from the harmful effects of breathing molecular oxygen (O
2) at elevated partial pressures. It is also known as oxygen toxicity syndrome, oxygen intoxication, and oxygen poisoning. Historically, the central nervous system condition was called the Paul Bert effect, and the pulmonary condition the Lorrain Smith effect, after the researchers who pioneered its discovery and description in the late 19th century. Severe cases can result in cell damage and death, with effects most often seen in the central nervous system, lungs and eyes. Oxygen toxicity is a concern for scuba divers, those on high concentrations of supplemental oxygen (particularly premature babies), and those undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
The result of breathing elevated concentrations of oxygen is hyperoxia, an excess of oxygen in body tissues. The body is affected in different ways depending on the type of exposure. Central nervous system toxicity is caused by short exposure to high concentrations of oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure. Pulmonary and ocular toxicity result from longer exposure to elevated oxygen levels at normal pressure. Symptoms may include disorientation, breathing problems, and vision changes such as myopia. Prolonged or very high oxygen concentrations can cause oxidative damage to cell membranes, the collapse of the alveoli in the lungs, retinal detachment, and seizures. Oxygen toxicity is managed by reducing the exposure to elevated oxygen levels. Studies show that, in the long term, a robust recovery from most types of oxygen toxicity is possible.
Protocols for avoidance of hyperoxia exist in fields where oxygen is breathed at higher-than-normal partial pressures, including underwater diving using compressed breathing gases, hyperbaric medicine, neonatal care and human spaceflight. These protocols have resulted in the increasing rarity of seizures due to oxygen toxicity, with pulmonary and ocular damage being mainly confined to the problems of managing premature infants.
In recent years, oxygen has become available for recreational use in oxygen bars. The US Food and Drug Administration has warned those suffering from problems such as heart or lung disease not to use oxygen bars. Scuba divers use breathing gases containing up to 100% oxygen, and should have specific training in using such gases.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1976
Jacques-Yves Cousteau (French pronunciation: [ʒak iv kusto]; commonly known in English as Jacques Cousteau; 11 June 1910 – 25 June 1997) was a French naval officer, explorer, ecologist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author and researcher who studied the sea and all forms of life in water. He co-developed the Aqua-Lung, pioneered marine conservation and was a member of the Académie française. He was also known as "le Commandant Cousteau" or "Captain Cousteau".