Sex and Sensitivity to Oxygen Toxicity


The most feared manifestation of acute oxygen toxicity is a loss of consciousness and tonic-clonic convulsions (seizures). The threat of oxygen-induced seizures in scuba diving becomes real when the partial pressure of the breathing gas exceeds 1.6 bars. It is known that exercise, carbon dioxide and immersion increase risk of seizures; thus, the working diver should limit oxygen in their breathing gas to 1.2 bars.

The recent paper by Heather Held, “Female rats are more susceptible to central nervous system oxygen toxicity than male rats,” presents data of an experimental study on rats which shows that females have a lower threshold for oxygen convulsions. Age, weight and hormonal status did not show obvious effect on sensitivity to oxygen toxicity.