Is Inhaling Helium Dangerous - How Dangerous is Helium - Balloon Gas Safety
The dangers of helium inhalation are real although it may seem like harmless fun. It is an asphyxiant, causing dizziness or unconsciousness. In addition to generalise hypoxia, it can cause disorientation and even death. Inhaling it can even cause a ruptured lung.
There is a well-known party trick where people suck gas out of helium balloons to talk funny. However, most people don't know how dangerous helium is. Inhaling helium is dangerous.
I admit it -- I’ve done it -- but never again!
The amusement of talking like Donald Duck is overshadowed by the helium gas dangers involved with inhaling helium balloon gas.
It’s not only ‘daffy’...
It can even be fatal!
What Gas is in Balloons?
The gas in ballons is helium, sometimes also known as "balloon gas". Helium balloons float because helium is less dense than air or lighter than air.
Helium comes as a compressed gas in a gas cylinder. Most cylinders are refillable although some are disposable.
Helium is non-toxic and non-flammable.
Why Does Helium Make You Sound Funny?
When you speak, you rely on your vocal chords to make the sounds.
The air passing through your larynx causes the vocal chords to vibrate.
The mouth, lips and tongue then convert the sound into speech.
When you inhale helium, it affects the timbre of your voice, because helium is much less dense than air.
This is a result of sound travelling faster through helium than air, as well as helium favouring high pitched sounds.
Inhaling Helium is Dangerous - Asphyxiation
Inhaling helium is dangerous. The helium gas danger is not that it is poisonous, as helium is an inert gas. The helium gas danger is as an asphyxiant, when inhaled instead of normal air.
Inhaling helium is dangerous because it can cause your body’s oxygen level to drop to dangerous low levels, initiating Hypoxia.
This is known as Inert Gas Asphyxiation.
Breathing just helium, or any inert gas, creates a dangerous absence of oxygen.
The helium displaces the air, including the required oxygen, in your lungs.
Symptoms of Hypoxia
The resulting Hypoxia is a condition that develops when the body is deprived of an adequate supply of oxygen.
Generalised hypoxia can cause dizziness, disorientation, abnormal heart function, unconsciousness and even death.
Helium Gas Danger of an Embolism or Ruptured Lung
Inhaling helium too deeply or directly from a gas cylinder is an even greater helium gas danger. The pressurised helium gas can cause a dangerous embolism.
An embolism is a blockage of a blood vessel which, in this case, is caused by a gas bubble.
This can cause a stroke, seizures or death.
The inhalation of pressurised gas can also damage the lungs.
Air sacs in the lungs are likely to rupture and death follows almost immediately, as victims literally drown in their own blood.
Be Safe with Helium Balloon Gas
Don’t be a daffy duck! Here are some helium safety tips to keep you, your family and friends out of danger:
Don’t inhale helium balloon gas. The dangers far outweigh the momentary amusement.
Share the Be Gas Wise web site with your family and friends on Facebook or let everyone know on Twitter:
Ensure helium balloon gas and other gases are only used for their intended purposes.
Always follow the danger safety warnings.
Make sure children are always supervised when playing with balloons.
Click to download the PDF of MSDS Helium (Balloon Gas)
Don't Release Helium Balloons Outdoors
Releasing balloons may seems harmless except balloons do eventually come back down to earth and can cause environmental damage.
Released helium balloons pose a danger to wildlife and especially marine wildlife.
Releasing balloons may also be illegal, depending on where you live.
For example, in NSW it is against the law to release 20 or more balloons.
Video & Conclusion
Elgas, BOC and the balloon industry are deeply concerned about the dangerous misuse of helium balloon gas. We want to ensure that customers, their family and friends are all educated to understand the helium dangers and how to safely enjoy helium balloons.
To help educate Australians, BOC, with the support of Elgas, has produced the following community service announcement.
Voiced by iconic Australian actor Michael Caton, the video depicts a family setting up for a children’s party.
“We’ve all seen this at one time or another, some of us may even have done it ourselves, but inhaling balloon gas is very dangerous and can be fatal,’’ Mr Caton says in the announcement.
“The helium in balloon gas acts as an asphyxiant and when you inhale it displaces the oxygen in your lungs.
“Balloon gas is safe in balloons and when you release it in a well-ventilated area and in a safe manner.
“So the next time you see some sucker about to inhale balloon gas or you think it is going to be a laugh, stop and be gas wise,’’ he says.
You will most likely see it on TV over the coming months.
Many thanks to Michael Caton for once again agreeing to be our ‘voice talent’ on this, as well as our previous BBQ Safety community service announcement.
Finally, kudos to our friends at BOC for creating the 'Be Gas Wise' safety campaign.
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The information in this article is derived from various sources and is believed to be correct at the time of publication. However, the information may not be error free & may not be applicable in all circumstances.