Nitrous oxide

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Nitrous oxide (N20) is a colorless gas stored as a liquid and is used as a general anesthetic.

Mechanism of action of Nitrous oxide

Nitrous oxide depresses the central nervous system adequately to allow for surgery or invasive, potentially painful, procedures. These are generally administered for a short period only and by medical personnel specifically trained in their use, efficacy and safety.

Side effects of Nitrous oxide

Breathing nitrous oxide can cause dizziness, unconsciousness, and even death. Long-term exposure can lead to infertility. Contact with liquid nitrous oxide can cause severe frostbite. Workers may be harmed from exposure to nitrous oxide. The level of exposure depends on the dose, duration, and type of work being done.

Clinical use of Nitrous oxide

Nitrous oxide is used in many industries. It can come from anesthetic equipment, surgical patients, and storage cylinders.

Work related exposure to nitrous oxide

Some examples of workers at risk of nitrous oxide exposure include the following:

  • Medical personnel who work in surgical rooms in hospitals, surgery centers, or medical offices
  • Dental workers where nitrous oxide gas is used as an anesthetic
  • Recovery room personnel who are exposed to outgassing patients who emit fumes after surgery
  • Workers in laboratories and facilities where compressed gas cylinders are moved and stored
  • Service workers who clean and maintain surgical rooms before or after surgery


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