- Last Updated: 27 July 2021
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.
Helium Tank Hire – Balloon Gas
Helium tank hire and gas supply.
Free helium gas delivery and great helium hire prices.
Helium gas bottle hire for use as balloon gas in decorative helium balloons. Helium gas is available in G2, E2 and D2 gas cylinder sizes. All cylinders are designed for transport. MSDS Helium
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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. How to Get Helium Out of Mylar Balloons Image Credit:
Jena Ardell/Moment/GettyImages Mylar foil balloons can be inflated with a straw or a mylar balloon inflator if you are trying to inflate several. These inflators can save you a lot of time and effort and won’t cost you much money. Mylar balloons are reusable, too, but you will have to deflate them first.
Manually Inflate a Mylar Balloon
You can blow up mylar balloons with air or helium, but if you want the balloons to rise, you must use helium. To blow one up with regular air, you will need a straw. First, locate the balloon’s tail end and then insert a straw into the seal between the two plastic layers. The balloon’s inner seal will open once the straw is in far enough. Pinch the sides of the straw (not too tightly) and blow into it. Take care not to over-inflate your balloon, or it will pop. When done, carefully remove your straw as you pinch the tabs together.
What’s a Mylar Balloon Inflator?
A mylar balloon inflator is basically a helium tank with a special attachment, available to purchase or rent. If you choose to use this sort of tank, you should always store it in an indoor, well-ventilated area under 120 degrees Fahrenheit and free of any items that are combustible. Moist or outdoor areas should be avoided; exposure to excessive moisture can cause metal tanks to rust, leading to instability that may result in a burst tank. Be sure to keep the tank out of reach of children and pets, and don’t place it in a heavily trafficked area or on the way towards an emergency exit. Never inhale helium, and always dispose of the tanks properly; many jurisdictions require special disposal at identified sites as opposed to mere recycling of the canisters. Experts point out that you should not use a tank or attachment designed for latex balloons when you have mylar ones. Using the wrong inflator will damage (or even pop) the balloon. The latex balloon inflator tips are made from rubber, and the mylar ones are typically made from brass. Find the opening in the balloon tail, and push the tank’s nozzle on until it is airtight. Hold the balloon with one hand and press the nozzle with the other; this will pump in the helium. Once the balloon is inflated (do not over-inflate), gently remove the tail from the nozzle, keeping the tail pinched shut. Retaining your hold, stretch the balloon tail around your fingers and tie it in a tight knot.
Deflating Mylar Balloons
There are no machines that deflate mylar balloons. Instead, you will need to use a straw for each one, with each balloon only taking a couple of minutes. As when inflating them manually, use flexible straws instead of hard ones that could damage the balloons. Insert the straw into the balloon’s tail’s opening, gently pushing until you hear the air escaping. Push on the balloon to speed things up and continue doing so until the balloon has completely flattened. Now, you can fold up it to get rid of any remaining air. Store the deflated balloons in zippered plastic bags in a dark location and re-inflate them later with a tank. If you don’t want to reuse your mylar balloons, be sure to recycle them. Because they use synthetic materials, tossing them into the trash or releasing them into the air is harmful for the environment. Instead, see if your town or county’s curbside recycling programs will accept them. Another option is to seek a recycling center that can take them.
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