Last updated: July 29, 2018

What Does Asphyxiant Mean?

An asphyxiant is a substance that displaces oxygen in the atmosphere, leading to oxygen deprivation. People who are exposed to an asphyxiant can become unconscious or die. They are especially dangerous in confined spaces. Simple asphyxiants include nitrogen, helium, neon, argon, krypton and xenon. Simple asphyxiants are an OSHA defined hazard. Asphyxiants are required to carry the signal word 'warning' on the label, along with the following hazard statement, "May displace oxygen and cause rapid suffocation."

Safeopedia Explains Asphyxiant

Asphyxiants are gasses that cause hypoxia. They are classified as either chemical or simple on the basis of their toxicity. Simple asphyxiants displace oxygen in inspired air. Chemical asphyxiants interfere with the oxygen transport system and cellular respiration, causing tissue hypoxia. Mild symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Severe symptoms include dyspnea, altered sensorium, ischemia, seizures and, ultimately, death. Occupational exposure and inhalation of the fumes of a fire are the most common sources of inhalation.


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