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No Link Between Scuba Diving and Lung Function Decline

Study shows no long-term adverse respiratory effects in healthy, non-smoking male divers

THURSDAY, July 13 (HealthDay News) -- Scuba diving is not associated with an accelerated decline in lung function, at least in healthy non-smoking male divers, according to a study published in the July issue of Chest.

Kay Tetzlaff, M.D., of the University of Tuebingen in Germany, and colleagues studied 590 healthy male members of the German Navy, including 468 military scuba divers and 122 submariners who served as controls. They followed the subjects for an average of five years.

The researchers found no significant difference between the divers and control subjects in the decline of forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1). They also found that found that FEV1 declined more rapidly in smokers than in non-smokers and declined more rapidly in subjects with a baseline FEV1 above average compared to subjects below average.

"Combined exposure to diving and smoking contributes to the fall of FEV1; therefore, smoking cessation is advised for divers," the authors conclude. "Although we cannot exclude that scuba diving may have cumulative damaging effects in susceptible subjects, the present results indicate that in healthy males with normal lung function and an uneventful diving history there are no long-term deleterious respiratory effects. This may be reassuring for millions of recreational divers worldwide who regularly employ compressed air scuba."

Tetzlaff is an employee of Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma GmbH & Co.

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