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Posts Tagged ‘Oxygen’

Congress Talks About Medical Gases

Friday, March 9th, 2012
Congressional Hearing on Medical Gases

LifeGas President Michael Walsh testifies before Congress.

If you are a follower of mine on Twitter, you may have noticed that there was a Congressional hearing about medical gas regulations on Thursday, March 8. Among the many issues discussed were the regulatory challenges facing medical gas manufacturers and distributors. The underlying problem is that medical gases like oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide are currently subject to the same regulations as pharmaceutical drugs, despite entirely different manufacturing distribution processes. Many in the gas industry believe that FDA needs to develop regulations that are targeted at medical gases specifically.

The industry has made a lot of progress on this front recently, as evidenced by the proposed Medical Gas Safety Act (HR 2227), introduced by Rep. Lance and cosponsored by members from both sides of the political aisle. The Congressional hearing was another step forward, as the industry was given a forum to plead its case. The Compressed Gas Association was represented by LifeGas president Michael Walsh.

In watching the hearing, I was shocked to learn that gases like oxygen are considered “unapproved drugs” in some venues. The problem, as Walsh explained, is that many customers are scared off by the “unapproved” label, causing them to cancel orders. The Medical Gas Safety Act would help resolve this by creating a process for medical gases to gain approval.

Another issue is expiration dates, which some government agencies attempt to enforce on medical gases. Walsh says, “Oxygen is an element of the periodic table. By its basic properties it will never expire.” Overall, Walsh was extremely well spoken. Let’s hope Congress and the FDA agree. You can read Walsh’s initial testimony here, or view the discussion in the video below.

From here, the next step for CGA is lobbying to have the Medical Gas Safety Act included with the Prescription Drug user Fee Act (PDUFA). At this point, there is a chance that FDA could attempt to block this effort, but there is hope. Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at FDA, also testified at the hearing. Dr. Woodcock said the FDA would be willing to work with CGA and industry manufacturers to come to a mutually beneficial solution. We’ll see what happens from here.

What do you think: Should the FDA adopt separate regulations for medical gases? How is your business affected by the current lack of specific medical gas regulations?

If you missed the Twitter chat yesterday, you can catch up by checking out hash tag #medicalgas.

View the Congressional hearing below or watch it on YouTube. It’s kind of a long one, but worth watching the discussions about medical gas.

How Nitrogen Saved A Snowboarder’s Life

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Winter starts early and ends late here in New York. Many people take advantage of long winters by snowboarding and skiing. Now nitrogen is making it possible for winter athletes to enjoy their outdoor activities more safely.

The latest innovation from The North Face uses nitrogen gas to potentially save lives. It’s a safety vest and backpack for skiers, snowboarders and other winter sports enthusiasts. The pack houses a canister of nitrogen that, when triggered, inflates two large airbags. In the case of an avalanche, the nitrogen-filled airbags will help bring the wearer to the surface. Professional snowboarder Xavier de Le Rue, who represented France in the 2010 Winter Olympics, says the airbag system saved his life a few years back when he was caught in an avalanche. The pack is still almost a year away for retail, but it’s a great use of gases (nitrogen in this case) to save lives. Check out the vest in action in the video below.

Of course, gases play an important role for mountain climbers. Earlier this year, Air Liquide’s Christopher Guest spoke about his journey to the top of Mt. Everest. He shared his story with Welding & Gases Today in “Outlasting Everest.” In the article, he explains how vital oxygen is to survival on Everest—and how he was almost without the life-saving gas on two occasions due to equipment and other climbers.

Mountains can be potentially dangerous for climbers, skiers and snowboarders. Thankfully there are gases to help keep them safe. Beyond safety, welding and gases played a significant role in the most recent winter olympics, from the olympic torch to making snow. Learn about the connection between the industry and the olympics in “Welding And Gases In The Games.”

Can you tell it snowed here yesterday? Click below to watch the video:

Hyperbaric Oxygen vs. Twitter

Friday, August 19th, 2011
Torii Hunter, trapped in an oxygen chamber, via Twitter

Torii Hunter, trapped in an oxygen chamber, via Twitter

Earlier this week, hyperbaric oxygen chambers found their way into the news (albeit the back page news) when baseball player Torii Hunter of the L.A. Angels got stuck in an oxygen chamber. After a tough loss, Hunter was using the clubhouse oxygen chamber and was apparently unable to get the zipper to the chamber open. The interesting part of the situation is the fact that he broadcasted the experience over Twitter via his iPad.

Several tweets later, and after more than an hour being stuck in the chamber, Hunter tweeted, “Finally someone came to my rescue. I just want to thank you guys in the twitter world for hearing my cry.”

Even at age 36 (that’s getting up there in the athlete world), the nine-time Gold Glove winner continues to perform at a high level…and who knows, maybe it has something to do with the oxygen. Although Hunter’s mishap was rather unique, he isn’t the only athlete using oxygen to improve and heal injuries.

In 2010, Welding & Gases Today took an in-depth look at hyperbaric oxygen therapy, its markets and its uses. Among the instances, the article reports, “The week before the Super Bowl, Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney used HBOT to help heal an ankle injury. Freeney ended up playing in all four quarters of the game.” Tiger Woods and Tim Tebow, among others, have been reported to have their own personal oxygen chambers.

It’s certainly a niche market for oxygen, but it’s one that’s growing. And maybe, with a little help from Torii Hunter and Twitter, the market has gained a little more exposure.

World Cup: Is the Oxygen Working?

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

As you watch the world cup matches, I hope you are keeping an eye on the teams that used oxygen masks, chambers and tents in their preparations (See entry: Can Oxygen Spur World Cup Success?). The players are saying the altitude is negatively affecting their endurance, so the question is whether these preparations have made any difference. The big litmus test was England (oxygen user) vs. USA (non-oxygen user). At first glance, you might think the oxygen was a non-factor. If anything, England under-performed against the US squad. The 1-1 score line certainly suggests there was no difference.

Upon closer inspection, though, I would argue in favor of the oxygen. The US team started slow and England took advantage, scoring in the 4th minute! Using oxygen masks was all about adapting to the high altitude. Whether it was because of the thin air, the US certainly needed more time to get accustomed.

At the end of the game, England looked fresher than the US, who had several players dragging. The oxygen may have played a part in their conditioning, and there is little question that England was in better condition as a team.

The other two teams that made news with their use of oxygen chambers are Japan and Korea. And guess what? Both teams won their opening matches. Japan beat Cameroon 1-0, while the Korea Republic defeated Greece 2-0.

As the tournament wears on, I suspect the oxygen will have less impact as teams grow accustomed to the thin air. But for now, the damage is done. What could have been a dramatic win for the US is a satisfactory draw, leaving little margin for error. Will someone please send them some oxygen?

Can Oxygen Spur World Cup Success?

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Friday marks the official start of the 2010 World Cup, and many of the 32 teams are using oxygen treatments to prepare for the competition. Fitness training is a major concern for teams, and this year’s Cup in South Africa presents a unique challenge for athletes. Seven of the ten stadiums that will host the Cup are at high altitudes, ranging from 2,165 feet in Nelspruit to 5,751 feet—more than a mile above sea level—in Johannesburg.

You might be thinking, “If the Denver Broncos could do it in Mile High Stadium, then surely soccer players can handle it.” Probably. And FIFA (the governing body for the World Cup) agrees, saying that the altitude will make no difference. So why did FIFA entertain a ban on high-altitude games last month?

In reality, soccer players run roughly 6-8 miles over the course of a single game, and that’s more than the Broncos can say. And at this level of competition, high performance athletes will do anything to gain an edge over their competitors. To get that edge, teams are turning to oxygen masks, tents, chambers and the like, all in hopes of better adjusting to the altitude.

Athletes commonly use higher-concentration oxygen treatments to help recover from injuries more quickly. Tiger Woods even has his own oxygen chamber. However, in this case, players aren’t after the healing effects of higher oxygen levels. Instead, the masks pump a lower concentration of oxygen to effectively deprive their bodies of air. This helps them adjust to the low oxygen levels in places like Johannesburg.

England’s players have used oxygen treatments while watching TV—you don’t want the light-headedness while you’re running hard. They even had oxygen tents flown to their already high-altitude training site in Austria. Japan, Korea and several other countries are likewise pulling out all the stops to help their players adjust.

The U.S. team, however, has taken the opposite approach. They are training at Princeton, a whopping 98 feet above sea level, with no thought for masks or chambers. Coach Bob Bradley insists that his team will actually have an advantage because Princeton’s normal oxygen levels will enable players to train harder and recover more quickly.

Are we making a mistake by not joining in the oxygen frenzy?

I guess we’ll find out. The U.S. team’s first match is against England—at 4,920 feet—on Saturday. It’s only uphill from there.