A message from the twister archive
Archive of balloon entertainer discussions
From: "Chris Jackson"
To: "Jack Finch" Subject: Re: Helium Question???? Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2001 10:08:23 -0600 Greetings, All. Jack Finch wrote: > When I make helium balloons at the mall I warn the kids against trying to > breath the helium in an effort to sound like Donald Duck. When they ask why > I tell them that is is not good for them but I am not sury whe. What are the > hazards of breathing helium? The responses that were posted to this list (that is: the ones that I recieved with my latest BHQ digest update) were *all* either misinformed (i.e. "urban legend") or else downright *WRONG* in their conclusions! I've no doubt that many if not most of the folks on this list understand the true (and scientifically sound!) dangers about inhaling helium,... this posting is intended to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and *nothing* but the truth!" about inflating helium! Re: Dave Barry's article... From this post, I must conclude that the child in question was breathing "in" nothing but industrial grade helium, with no pauses to allow oxygen to reach his system. This child was "drowning" in helium. The human body needs a certain amount of oxygen to continue to function. (i.e. LIVE!) The sole *major* danger of inhaling helium is: Doing so without breathing oxygen for too long! Terry, "Gitsy" Basco wrote: >I explain to them that helium can kill them. First... it, as the article that was just posted, has no oxygen.. do it enough times in a row.. and that is not as many as you would think, and you can literally be suffocating yourself and not know it. It is like someone holding a bag over your head.. BINGO! Too much is *not* a good thing. Breathing in nothing but helium will kill you as easily as if you were breathing in nothing but CO2. Pure helium is O.K., *BUT* only if you breathe in some oxygen in between each 'hit' of pure helium. One breath will *NOT* cause harm, several breaths in a row will have an effect that is similar to smoke inhalation. No Oxygen means that your brain is being starved. >Also, if you get hold of helium straight from the tank instead of a balloon there is a potential of exploding your lungs. A "Potential", yes. A remote possibility. Inhaling straight from the tank is a *major* danger. (see below) Inhaling from the regulator (the device that *seriously* lowers the output pressure) lowers this danger, but the danger is still there. Inhaling from an inflated latex balloon makes this "exploding your lungs" story nothing but an "Urban Myth"! (i.e. a bald-faced LIE!) >There is something like 2000 lbs of pressure (don't quote me on the exact amount) in a helium tank. I've dealt with several different companies, with different descriptions of what constitutes a "full" helium tank, and their products range from 1800 PSI to 2400 PSI. HOWEVER, the only way to expose oneself to this kind of pressure is to stick your mouth directly on the valve at the top of the tank and open it. (i.e. no regulator.) This kind of pressure *is* dangerous, and difficult to control. If you tried inflating a balloon directly from the tank, you would most likely either burst it or underinflate it. That's why engineers designed and built the pressure regulators that are used today. > Enough so that if it was dropped without the protective cap on and the valve was broken off it would shoot literally like a torpedo. Hard enough to go thru a wall. I have heard some great stories of things like this happening in the place they sell the helium. Hmmm... I can see this happening, *very* rarely! It would take a combination of extrordinary circumstances and a total disregard of common sense safety procedures. In other words, it would be hard to do this deliberately, much less accidentally! >Helium is also used in welding. Sometimes, occasionally, yes. It is used when a non-chemically reactive environment is needed. (very rare, and only for specific, unusual jobs.) the vast majority (99%+) of welding jobs don't require such extremes. An Oxygen/Acetelene mix in an open-air environment is usually sufficient. >If you are going to have a helium tank in your home.. I rent one for a minimal fee to have it here whenever I need it... you are supposed to either chain it to a wall, or purchase a safety cart, that it can be strapped to, so it can't accidentally tip. This is one of the common-sense safety procedures mentioned above. You've got a long, skinny, *heavy* object balanced on one of the narrow ends. Of course you should take precautions to prevent it from tipping. This rule also applies to things like bookcases and home entertainment units. You are much more likely to be injured when this 60lb+ chunk of steel falls over and lands on your foot. Ian Lloyd wrote: >Helium is taken up by the body faster than, and in place of . oxygen. Um,... er,... ah.... NO! Sorry to be so blunt, but the above statement is just plain untrue! Check your high school chemistry book and you will find that Helium is *not*, in any way shape or form, chemically reactive. Your body does *not* absorb it in place of oxygen, it cannot! That is a physical impossibility. Read on. > If the practice is not continuously repeated there isn't a great deal of danger BUT why would anyone in their right mind encourage (or not discourage) children from putting chemicals into their bodies, particularly by inhaling? A good point. Personally, however, if a child is going to inhale something for pleasure, then I would rather it be helium, or preferably a 80/20 mix of helium and oxygen. Helium is non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, non-addictive,... in fact that helium/oxy mix is actually safer to breathe than the smog-filled air that blankets most major cities. (Denver, LA, New York, etc...) The biggest danger appears when someone breathes pure helium. This could lead to suffocation due to lack of oxygen. Its not a question of the helium "displacing" or "replacing" the oxygen in your bloodstream, if there is no oxygen there to begin with, then *there* is your problem. The same problem would occurr if you inhaled pure nitrogen, pure neon, or any other pure gas that dosen't contain oxygen. You want to avoid the suffocation danger? Teach the kids to take a deep breath of fresh air in between each breath of helium. That's all it takes to avoid the suffocation danger. Period. >There is a danger in taking the use of something in one situation and extrapolating that into its safe use in an entirely different situation. If divers use helium or nitrox at depth I beleive the same mix would be lethal at the surface ( I may be wrong, it's happened before, once) Yes, you are incorrect on this. (sorry, my friend.) Right now, sitting in front of your computer, reading this message, you are breathing a (roughly) 80/20 nitrox mix. 80% nitrogen, 20% oxygen. (roughly...) Its more commonly known as "air". There are some impurities, CO2, trace gasses, smog particulates, even a bit of helium! That's your standard atmosphere here on good old Earth. Not at all lethal at the surface. Divers carry a nitrox mix with them for a reason... Too *much* Oxygen in the bloodstream can be dangerous. That's right, too *much* is bad for you. If your body overloads on Oxygen, you get a sensation similar to drunkeness. You get very relaxed and euphoric. In a situation where you only have a limited amount of time before you must surface this can be a real danger. When doing long deep dives, it is preferable to use a 80/20 Helium/Oxy mix. This is safer due to the dangers of Nitrogen Narcosis. For more info, click here: http://www.britannica.com/seo/n/nitrogen-narcosis/ Bottom line,... breathing helium is *not* dangerous, unless you fail to use common sense. Common sense rules: 1) Don't put your mouth on a 2000psi gas source, vent the gas into something safer, like a balloon. 2) Don't breathe pure helium for more than a few seconds, take a breath of fresh air inbetween each breath of helium. I challenge any and all to show me a case of someone who followed these common sense rules and still came to harm. Don't blindly accept the horror stories, get the truth, the *WHOLE* truth, and nothing but the truth. The whole truth will usually unravel the "urban myths". Chris Jackson Ft. Collins, CO.