Free Oxygen

Lately there have been all the “oxygen” bars popping up everywhere. How do they get this oxygen? Can someone just walk into a pharmacy and request an oxygen tank or would they need a prescription? If they need a prescription, how can these oxygen bars offer it to the general public?

Bottled oxygen isn’t too hard to get hold of - diving shops can supply it (Although they’d probably want to know what you were going to use it for - only special forces use pure oxygen for diving) and so can welding gear suppliers. As far as I know, you don’t need a licence or prescription to obtain it.

Oxygen is readily available from many outlets. My uncle uses it extensively to transport live fish. Also consider that half of an Oxy-Acetylene (sp?) torch is a tank of Oxygen.

A couple of points:
Welding oxygen is not certified for breathing. Breathable oxygen must meet requirements for purity. It’s tested to ensure that it does not contain levels of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons above a very low limit. This means additional costs for the testing, compressor filter maintenance, and type of compressor oils used.
Since all this costs quite a bit, I doubt if welding oxygen meets the requirements.

I haven’t seen oxygen in any dive shops although it’s possible one could stock it for one of three reasons.

  1. Oxygen is used to treat divers with DCS or suspected DCS and its use is taught to divers certified to the Rescue Diver level and above.
  2. Nitrox or enriched air diving is becoming more popular. If the dive shop offers nitrox they would have breathable oxygen available for the nitrox mix.
  3. Recreational diving rebreathers are now available and the closed circuit types use a small tank of oxygen.

Whether the shop can sell it or not is another question. I think state laws may vary. For example I recall reading an article about regulations in Florida prohibiting the refill of oxygen bottles used for DCS treatment without a prescription. I think divers were eventually given the okay to get refills without a prescription.

Concerning divers breathing pure oxygen, it becomes toxic as pressure (depth) increases. I don’t know what the military uses now but a common civilian limit is a pressure of 1.4 atmospheres. That limit would be reached at a depth of about 14 feet, which would seem to limit the usefulness of pure oxygen as a diving gas.

The oxygen at these “bars” is advertised as “so much more pure” than what we breathe daily. I want to know where I can get this, without having to go to these bars.