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Compressed Gas and Breathing Air Testing

Guide To Compressed Breathing Air Systems and Testing Services

Maintaining safety and quality standards for compressed gases like breathing air can be critical in specific industries. Healthcare workers, manufacturers, and divers depend on contaminated-free compressed breathing air to save lives or sustain themselves. Compressed air purity is a life-or-death matter for these professionals.

The purity of compressed gases and breathing air is vital in many work settings, yet contamination risks are only sometimes recognized. This article explores why routine testing of these air supplies is essential. It covers the hazards posed by impurities and outlines standard methods for analyzing and safeguarding the quality of compressed breathing gases. By raising awareness of air testing procedures, we aim to prevent needless harm caused by using degraded or unsafe compressed air.

The Importance of Testing Compressed Gas and Breathing Air

Compressed gases, especially those used for breathing, are crucial in various industries and applications. Healthcare workers rely on breathing air systems to provide oxygen to patients with difficulty breathing. 

Manufacturers of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and other hazardous materials utilize breathing air to provide respiratory protection against fumes and airborne contaminants.

Food manufacturers utilize breathing air systems to prevent contamination.

Divers and other aquatic workers may utilize breathing air to submerge underwater and perform their jobs.

Lastly, miners and other individuals traversing areas with compromised air quality can utilize breathing air systems to perform their duties without breathing in harmful air.

Should the air in these situations become compromised, those relying on it are in grave danger. In cases where oxygen is limited, the result can be severe harm or fatality if the issue goes undetected due to a failure to test the air quality beforehand. This is why routine inspections and maintenance of compressed breathing gas systems are matters of life and death. No amount of time or money saved is worth risking the safety of professionals who depend on the purity of these gases.

Contaminants That May Be Found in Compressed Breathing Air Systems

Inhaling polluted air poses health risks to people and other living organisms. Compressed breathing air systems can harbor toxic contaminants if improperly maintained or stored. Potential hazards found in degraded compressed air include:

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

One of the most common and dangerous chemicals in contaminated breathing air is carbon monoxide (CO.) CO is an odorless and colorless gas that can cause dizziness, headaches, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, chest pains, impaired motor skills and, in severe cases, loss of consciousness or even death.

CO can enter the systems through the air intake or due to overheating certain types of air compressors. Testing for CO is crucial to ensure the safety of all parties involved with using your compressed gas.

Water Vapors

Water is the second-most abundant contaminant found in compressed gas systems. Moisture can accumulate and be drawn into the air compressor as a vapor. The vapors can then condense, forming on facepieces or helmets and cause condensation to appear in places it shouldn’t.

The water can also mix with other contaminants to clog or damage system components, cause mold or mildew, or even freeze in cold weather to block airflow entirely.


Lubricating oils used in compressed air machinery can inadvertently contaminate the system. When inhaled, oil particles can inflict severe damage to lung tissue, induce nausea, and potentially lead to pneumonia. Even small amounts of oil vapor in breathing air pose a severe health hazard.


Solid contaminants like metal shavings can infiltrate compressed breathing air lines through the intake or an eroding compressor. Inhaling such particulate matter can inflict grave damage by lodging in lung tissue and other internal organs.

Even minuscule debris entering the air supply can accumulate over time, creating a significant health hazard. 

How Companies Test Compressed Gas and Breathing Air

Fortunately, there are ways for health and safety companies to detect contaminants before they put people at a health risk and cause injury. The most common method is gas chromatography, which can identify and quantify pollutants found in the air. They may also use spectrometry to identify molecular components and assess air purity.

When moisture is of concern, dew point measurements can be conducted to identify the moisture level in a breathing air system.

Lastly, companies may utilize microbiological testing to identify bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms in the air.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides strict regulations on compressed breathing air quality under 29 CFR 1910.134(i). This code covers comprehensive standards for compressed air systems and accessories, including:

  • Requirements for equipment condition and maintenance
  • Proper storage and cleaning protocols
  • Routine inspection and testing procedures
  • Training workers on safe operating procedures

Adhering to OSHA’s stringent compressed air quality guidelines is crucial for any industry reliant on these systems. Compliance helps ensure employee safety by reducing contamination risks.

Consider PHASE Associates to Conduct Your Next Industrial Hygiene Assessment

Meeting OSHA standards is essential for any organization relying on compressed breathing gases. To confirm your systems and provide contaminant-free, Grade D quality air, contact PHASE Associates for an industrial hygiene evaluation. Our experts will thoroughly assess your compressed air lines and equipment. We guarantee to identify any issues that could compromise air purity and worker safety. Protect your employees by partnering with PHASE Associates to validate that your compressed breathing air adheres to all applicable quality guidelines.

For more details to discuss breathing air testing and your breathing air system assessment, call us at (973) 597-0750 or contact us via our online form. We look forward to meeting you and helping you keep your employees, patients, customers, and others safe from harm.

Our compressed breathing air systems testing services are offered to NJ, PA, CT, GA, RI, NH, NY, VA, MD, DE, and MA.