You may have frequently heard the terms ‘oxygen’ and ‘medical oxygen’ interchangeably in different settings but there is a big difference between regular oxygen and medical oxygen in the compressed gas world.
Medical oxygen is high purity oxygen that is used for medical treatments and is developed for use in the human body. Medical oxygen cylinders contain a high purity of oxygen gas. No other types of gases are allowed in the cylinder to prevent contamination. There are additional requirements and rules for medical oxygen, including requiring a person to have a prescription to order medical oxygen.
Industrial oxygen is focused on uses in industrial plants including combustion, oxidation, cutting and chemical reactions. The industrial oxygen purity levels are not appropriate for human use and there could be impurities from dirty equipment or industrial storage that could make people ill.
Medical oxygen requires a prescription to assure user safety and patients are getting the correct percentage of oxygen for their needs. As people are different sizes and require different amounts of medical oxygen for their specific medical conditions, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. That’s why patients are required to visit their doctor and get a prescription for medical oxygen.
Besides, medical oxygen cylinders should be free of contaminants and a chain of custody to verify that the cylinder is only being used for medical oxygen. Cylinders that had been previously used for other purposes wouldn’t be used for medical-grade oxygen unless the cylinders were evacuated, thoroughly cleaned, and labeled appropriately.
Medical oxygen is used in a variety of settings. Commonly medical oxygen is administered in medical facilities like hospitals and clinics. It’s used during anesthesia, first aid resuscitation for emergencies, life support for patients who can’t breathe on their own, and oxygen therapy.
Athletes use medical oxygen in specific situations like high altitudes and training.
A common belief is that we are breathing 100% oxygen in our atmosphere. That’s not true. The air we breathe is about 21 percent oxygen and 78 percent nitrogen. The one percent is a mix of other gases like carbon dioxide and hydrogen.
Another common misconception is that people need high-purity oxygen that’s close to 100% oxygen for certain occupations or uses. For example, high purity grade oxygen would not be used for firefighting, deep-sea diving, etc. Most of these situations use regular air or ABO gas that is often filtered and chilled for user comfort.
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