The Difference Between Medical Oxygen & Industrial Oxygen

It’s a scientific fact that every part of the body needs oxygen to survive. In fact, that’s the main purpose of the body’s respiratory system — to take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. You might, however, be surprised to learn that there’s more than one type of oxygen — and two of these “alternative” types of oxygen that you may be somewhat familiar with are medical oxygen and industrial oxygen. Even more, the types of compressors that create each type of oxygen vary greatly.

In this post, we’ll dig deeper into these two types of oxygen to explain the key differences as well as touch on some of their shared traits. Here’s a closer look:

Medical Oxygen

First, it’s worth noting that there’s a big difference between oxygen and medical oxygen. For starters, medical oxygen is a type of oxygen that is used, simply put, for medical purposes. This type of oxygen can only be generated by medical air compressors.

Specific government agencies regulate what type of compressor can be used to produce oxygen due to the risk of contamination from an incorrect compressor. Medical compressors generally come in oil-free or oil-less varieties.

Because medical oxygen is only administered for medical purposes, patients must either have a prescription to have access to it or require life-saving treatment at a hospital or emergency medical center.

Medical oxygen is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to ensure patient safety. Depending on factors such as age, weight and others, the medical oxygen administered usually differs between patients. There is no true one-size-fits-all solution, which makes the importance of a doctor’s prescription all the more necessary.

As we noted earlier, medical oxygen is often required for life-saving medical treatments or in everyday situations when an individual cannot adequately breathe on their own. It may also be used for certain medical procedures, notably if a patient has to go under general anesthesia. Medical oxygen is also typically administered in non-medical situations as well. For example, athletes may take it when training or individuals may undergo oxygen therapy.

The air we breathe in our atmosphere consists of about 21 percent oxygen, and while most people are able to achieve the necessary amounts of oxygen through breathing in air, medical intervention may become necessary during certain situations or for people living with certain conditions.

Industrial Oxygen

So what’s industrial oxygen? As the name implies, it’s typically a type of oxygen used in industrial settings, like manufacturing plants, for tasks that may include combustion, oxidation and even to help accelerate certain chemical reactions. Industrial oxygen is not intended to be inhaled like medical oxygen is, but rather serves a complementary role to create the actions that are carried out in these facilities. Steelmaking, for instance, is one of the largest users of industrial oxygen.

However, one of the biggest differentiators when it comes to industrial oxygen versus medical oxygen is that industrial oxygen is not safe to breathe. In fact, purity levels are not safe for human use — not to mention that industrial oxygen could also contain contaminants in the tanks that are absent from medical oxygen tanks based on the stringent FDA regulation of it.

Some common uses of industrial oxygen include:

  • Welding, cutting, flame cleaning, etc.
  • Metal manufacturing, such as in steel production.
  • Assisting in the creation of certain fuels.
  • A bleaching chemical to help create paper and paper-based products.

Industrial oxygen can be generated by oil-lubricated, oil-less or oil-free compressors. This will depend on what kind of product is produced using the compressed air application.

Key Differences

Think of medical oxygen vs. industrial oxygen like this: Medical oxygen is necessary to maintain good enough blood oxygen levels or else there’s a risk of serious health consequences or even death. Oxygen is important for humans to breathe and function properly, and when the respiratory system is not receiving enough of it, medical intervention is often necessary. However, it’s important for people to receive the correct amount of medical oxygen or else high concentrations could lead to toxicity.

Industrial oxygen, conversely, is used to accelerate or support some sort of industrial function, such as those that we mentioned above.

Finally, it’s also important to reiterate how medical and industrial oxygen is regulated. The FDA regulates medical oxygen and sets strict parameters as it pertains to tank cleanliness in order to eliminate the possibility of any potentially harmful contaminants. Industrial oxygen isn’t regulated as strictly, which means that there may be some level of contamination in the tank that is being administered for such purposes. Noting this, industrial oxygen should never be used for medical purposes.

Contact JHFOSTER Today

For more information on the key differences between medical and industrial oxygen, and to learn more about some of the common situations where industrial oxygen is administered, contact JHFOSTER today. As a provider of products that are designed to serve the medical field as well as various industrial practices, we have the experience and expertise to answer any questions you might have pertaining to medical and industrial oxygen. Contact us today to learn more.