safety of breathing air in "sub-aqua" episodes : LUSENET : Junkyard Wars : One Thread

Can anyone comment on the safety of breathing air that has been pumped by some random bodged-together pumping device?

I am referring specifically to the "sub-aqua" episode in which the "yellow team" bodged together a handmade pump while the "orange team" re-used a found air compressor, but the same question applies to a similar episode in the American version.

I was taught in dive class that it is a very bad idea to breathe air from any compressor that is not specifically designed for the purpose, because such machines have oil in them either for their own lubrication or left over from the fabrication of the machine. The air that comes out may be polluted with enough oil to be a health concern. This is one reason we don't fill scuba tanks at the gas station.

Did they give each team a filter through which to put their air? Or do they think it is not of much concern for just a few minutes of breathing? Was my dive instructor just being paranoid?

In the American version, I noticed the team with the piston pump using olive oil as their lubricant and I assumed that this was the reason for that particular choice. That doesn't seem like the most likely kind of oil to find in a junkyard, does it? Or maybe it is, if the caterers have just brought lunch.

-- Sam Mahmoud (, February 13, 2001


I worried about that when watching those episodes too(I'm also a diver). Maybe they figured that they weren't that deep (meaning that the air would be at a lower pressure, hence less dense, hence less concentrated contaminants), plus they were only doing it onc time, and not for that long. Or maybe on "safety day" they rebuilt the compressor, gave it a good cleaning, and relubed it with the right kind of oil?

Duane, care to comment?

(Incidentally, another reason you don't fill a SCUBA tank at a gas station is that 200 psi or whatever wouldn't last you very long!)

-- Eric (, February 13, 2001.

There was an olive tree and they built an olive press to get out the oil...Just joking. The show will get stuff for you that is part of the build, such as white glue, pop rivits, tape, and olive oil if nessecary....etc,etc. When I saw the "Young Guns" pouring that oil,(which I think was olive oil) into that cylinder, I thought that it was a bad idea. Too much! A dab of grease, or maybe just a little bit of oil on the edges. The minute they started to pump that thing....We could literally watch clouds of misty oil shooting up above the pump. I knew that some of that had to be getting into the helmet. Bob (Their) diver, mentioned after the dive that it did effect his breathing and he had a little bit of a wheeze afterwards. What you didn't see on TV was two or three times during the whole race, Bob reached down and grabbed the extra respirator and stuffed it under the helmet to get some fresh air. After the dive I asked him why he did that and he said he needed some fresh air.

-- Duane Flatmo, Art Attack (, February 13, 2001.

I know that when my father had his dive store, we would send the air through a series of 5 carbon filters before it would meet canadian health standards. I to was concerned about the quality of air that they were breathing. I am sure that as seasoned divers, they would have asked for some type of filter. I know that I would have..

-- Craig Wardle (, February 13, 2001.

I was engulfed in a cloud of oil, when a line broke on an air operated oil pump. The doctors called it chemical pneumonia, 5 days with a temperature of 105, in pure oxygen, and they weren't sure if I would ever recover. An experience I never want to repeat.


-- JustJay-Captain-Three Rusty Juveniles (, February 13, 2001.

The key to surviving this is the integrated (total) exposure: the time exposed multiplied by the concentration. Here, a short time and low concentration keeps the total exposure relatively "safe." This reminds me of my High School chemistry class, which was enough years ago that "waffing" (smelling) fumes and tasting substances were acceptable ways to ID some chemicals: chlorine burns when waffed, arsenic is sweet to the taste, etc. I'm alive because of small concentrations and/or short exposures. A few minutes at 20' is a lot different exposure that a 60' dive for half an hour: air density (depth increases the concentration of contaminates in each breath) and obviously more time. I'm a diver too, and the warnings for pure air, for non-Junk Yard divers, certainly stand!

-- Devin T. Ross (, February 14, 2001.

Olive oil will "digest" in the lungs. Petroleum Oil won't per the resident health care type (RN wife).

-- Stephen A. Binion (, February 14, 2001.

The only reason you don't fill air tanks at gas stations is because there is now way to pressurize the tanks.

-- Danny (, September 17, 2001.

I am a student and for one of my projects I plan to build a diving helmet. I was wandering about the carbondioxide building up in the helmet. what can I do to realese the carbon out of the helmet?What kinds of fliters can I use to clean the air?

-- Carlos Santiago (, November 30, 2001.

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