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Hazardous Atmospheres

Naval vessels contain a number of confined spaces that may be oxygen deficient, contain toxic material, or other flammable material. These areas are not intended to be worked in for a long period of time and should typically only be entered for the purpose of inspection or brief periods of routine maintenance. Below are some of the more common hazardous atmospheres in naval vessels.

Asphyxiating Atmospheres

Deficiency of oxygen can be caused by a number of factors, including oxidation reactions caused by rust and fire. It can also occur while in the presence of combustion while welding, heating, or cutting. This combustion burns oxygen at a rapid pace and oxygen levels in the air begin to decrease. Typical air that we breath contains about 21% oxygen, with the rest being a mix of other gases like hydrogen and nitrogen. Oxygen levels which drop below 19.5% are potentially hazardous. Over time, continued oxygen deficiency can cause brain damage and other lasting health effects.

Toxic Atmospheres

Toxins, which are emitted through vapors and solvents, also present a potential hazard in confined space. Among the more common toxic atmospheres aboard naval vessels was the recirculation of diesel fuel exhaust which can cause lasting health consequences in those who were exposed to these fumes over a period of time. Sewage holding tanks, in which there is a breakdown or human or animal waste, often product toxins such as methane and hydrogen sulfide. If you frequently worked in confined spaces aboard naval vessels, your health may have been adversely affected. Lasting health effects are common in sailors and other servicemen who commonly repaired or serviced these areas. Communicate any potentially hazardous exposure or situation with your physician to ensure that you can identify possible symptoms of these health complications.

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