Alabama is considering use of nitrogen asphyxia as a third option to execute prisoners.
“If SB12 is passed, Alabama would become the second state (Oklahoma is the other) to offer nitrogen asphyxiation, also known as nitrogen hypoxia, as a death penalty option,” the Montgomery Advertiser reported.
Nitrogen is painless and easier to administer, said Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, the bill’s author. Nitrogen makes up 78 percent of the atmosphere and is harmless when inhaled with oxygen, the newspaper reported April 5.
Alabama had also considered execution by firing squad, but the nitrogen option was substituted. Current options are lethal injection and electric chair.
“No country has actually used it (nitrogen) for death penalty purposes”
Oklahoma passed a similar bill in 2015, although the method has not been used.
“No country has actually used it (nitrogen) for death penalty purposes, although deaths due to nitrogen asphyxiation have been documented and studied,” the newspaper reported.
A study released in 2003 by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board found that 80 people died from incidentally inhaling pure nitrogen between 1992 and 2002.
Although there is concern in some quarters about the safety of nitrogen, Pittman maintains that nitrogen hypoxia is more humane and easier to implement that other methods. “It is very effective. It’s also very plentiful in terms of supply,” he said.