Inhaling Gas from Helium Balloons No Laughing Matter, It Can Kill

IT’S a fun party trick that gives you a Donald Duck voice but inhaling helium could cost you your life. The gas industry is sending a stern warning against the fad after it was promoted by high profile celebrities like Morgan Freeman and the television show Talkin’ Bout Your Generation. In a new advertising campaign beginning on Sunday night, which is backed by gas suppliers BOC and ELGAS, actor Michael Caton, who played Darryl Kerrigan in 1997 film The Castle, will warn inhaling the gas from a helium balloon could be fatal. Coroner Nigel Meadows called for the sale of helium to be regulated in the UK after Matthew Satterthwaite, the 23-year-old student son of Manchester University Professor Diana Mitlin, died from inhaling the gas. More than 79 Australians were found to have died from inhaling the gas between July 2005 and December 2009, an increase of 163%, a 2011 study in the Journal of Forensic Sciences found. Britain’s Office of National Statistics reports that 62 people died from inhaling helium in 2013, a 500 per cent increase on 2008. With the party season approaching it was important that people were reminded of the risks to human health associated with inhaling balloon gas, said BOC spokeswoman Melissa Hayes. “Unfortunately it is no laughing matter,’’ Ms Hayes said. “As a leading gas and engineering company, BOC places a high value on public education and safety. “The depiction of people inhaling balloon gas and speaking in ‘high voices’ gives the impression that inhaling balloon gas is not only harmless, but a fun thing to do which causes the industrial gas industry considerable concern,” she said. The gas company says helium gas displaces the air in the lungs in the same way water does when you drown and can quickly cause loss of consciousness and you can stop breathing and may die. “Inhaling balloon gas cuts off your oxygen supply,” it says. Inhaling helium gas under pressure direct from the pump can rupture air sacs in the lungs. Two college students were found dead in the US in 2006 under a deflated balloon filled with helium and a boy died in the UK in 2012 after inhaling the gas. “Thousands of party goers continue to inhale helium thinking it to be funny rather than life threatening,” BOC says in a statement. “Comedy television and radio programs often misrepresent helium as a safe practice when, in fact, but can be deadly,” the gas company says.

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