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Nitrous Oxide


CAS No.10024-97-2

Nitrous oxide (N20) is a colorless gas stored as a liquid. Breathing nitrous oxide can cause dizziness, unconsciousness, and even death. Long-term exposure can lead to infertility. Contact with liquid nitrous oxide can cause severe frostbite. Workers may be harmed from exposure to nitrous oxide. The level of exposure depends on the dose, duration, and type of work being done.

Nitrous oxide is used in many industries. It can come from anesthetic equipment, surgical patients, and storage cylinders. Some examples of workers at risk of nitrous oxide exposure include the following:

  • Medical personnel who work in surgical rooms in hospitals, surgery centers, or medical offices
  • Dental workers where nitrous oxide gas is used as an anesthetic
  • Recovery room personnel who are exposed to outgassing patients who emit fumes after surgery
  • Workers in laboratories and facilities where compressed gas cylinders are moved and stored
  • Service workers who clean and maintain surgical rooms before or after surgery

NIOSH recommends that employers use the Hierarchy of Controls to prevent worker exposures. If you work in an industry that uses nitrous oxide, read chemical labels and the accompanying Safety Data Sheet for hazard information. Visit NIOSH’s page on Managing Chemical Safety in the Workplace to learn more about controlling chemical workplace exposures.

The following resources provide information about occupational exposure to nitrous oxide. Useful search terms for nitrous oxide include “dinitrogen monoxide,” “hyponitrous acid anhydride,” and “laughing gas.”

NIOSH Chemical Resources

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NIOSH Pocket Guide

The NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards (NPG) helps workers, employers, and occupational health professionals recognize and control workplace chemicals hazards.

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Manual of Analytical Methods

The NIOSH Manual of Analytical Methods (NMAM) is a collection of methods for sampling and analysis of contaminants in workplace air, and in the blood and urine of workers who are occupationally exposed.

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Health Hazard Evaluations

The Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program conducts onsite investigations of possible worker exposure to chemicals. Search the HHE database for more information on nitrous oxide.

Related NIOSH Resources

Selected Publications

Related Resources

International Resources