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Hyperbaric chambers need more controls: watchdog

Waterloo pediatrician suspicious of benefits

Allison Lawlor, Standard Staff
The Standard

An alternative medicine watchdog says governments should be doing more to control the use of hyperbaric chambers.

Dr. Terry Polevoy, a Waterloo pediatrician, expects growth in the use of the compression chambers. But so far authorities have not done enough to monitor the devices, he figures.

"As far as I'm concerned the government of Canada has missed the boat on hyperbaric chambers," said Polevoy.

He said health authorities should increase regulations for the treatments.

Polevoy's concerns come after the death of Dan Skala, a 36-year-old man who died of asphyxiation inside a hyperbaric chamber in his Ridgeville home Monday.

The regional coroner's office is still doing tests on the body but the preliminary results indicate death by asphyxiation, said Niagara Regional Police.

Skala was using the chamber to relieve the pain of his persistent headaches, say family members.

"A lot of pediatricians are skeptical about the hyperbaric chamber," said Polevoy, who runs acne clinics in Waterloo and London.

Four years ago he set up a Web site dedicated to alerting the public to health scams. The site is now called

"Right now there are dozens of alternative medical centres planning to install these (chambers) in Ontario," said Polevoy.

His main concerns are the lack of scientific evidence to show the treatment works and that people with non-medical backgrounds are giving the treatments.

"This is like snake oil," said Polevoy.

His other concern is people without medical training are administering oxygen, something that is administered by a doctor, said Polevoy.

He does not know where Skala got his oxygen, since the delivery of oxygen is regulated.

The treatments do not come cheaply. Polevoy estimates they cost $100 to $150 a shot at a clinic.

Hyperbaric chambers are used by divers to prevent the "bends" caused when pressure changes too quickly.

Hyperbaric oxygen is also used by some doctors to treat patients with severe carbon monoxide poisoning, arterial gas embolism and decompression sickness,

Skala is survived by his wife Lorri, daughter Raiden and family members in Niagara and surrounding area.

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