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Helium Alert: Help Customers Stay Safe

Helium Safety AlertSafety is a number one priority for the Gases and Welding Distributors Association, as it is for GAWDA members everywhere. When working with welding and gases, there are many potential dangers. Unfortunately, when these products fall into the wrong hands, there is a potential for accidents. The best way to prevent these accidents is through education.

Reports have come out this week that a 14-year-old girl in Oregon died after inhaling helium at a party. A group of teens was using helium to make their voices sound funny, and the girl ended up with air pockets in her veins that led to her death. As MSNBC states, the event “exposes the rare but real dangers of inhaling helium, especially from a pressurized tank.”

Dr. Mark Morocco, associate professor of emergency medicine at the Ronald Reagan Medical Center in Los Angeles, explains the dangers of inhaling helium: “It is similar to when a scuba diver surfaces too quickly. A gas bubble gets into the bloodstream, perhaps through some kind of tear in a blood vessel. If it is a vein, the bubble will stay in the lungs. If it is an artery, it can block the flow of oxygen-laden blood to the brain, causing a stroke. If there is a hole in the heart, the bubble can go from a vein to an artery and then to the brain.”

In response to the event, GAWDA released the following safety alert:

Helium Inhalation Alert

Feb. 23, 2012

On the news today was an article on the tragic death of a teenage girl that died from breathing helium at a party. The Gases and Welding Distributors Association and the Compressed Gas Association have for many years been concerned with the breathing of helium in order to get the high pitched “Donald Duck” sound. These associations have released many alerts and communications over the years warning people not to breathe helium from cylinders or balloons filled with helium.

We want to remind our distributors to remind their customers of the hazards of inhaling helium at any time and under any circumstance.

If you have any inquiries on where to find out more information breathing inhalants such as helium, you can find more at the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition website: http://www.inhalants.org/index.shtml

You can also refer your customers to the MSDS for helium and to CGA P-9, The Inert Gases: Argon, Nitrogen, and Helium.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions, concerns, or comments.
Michael Dodd
GAWDA DOT, Security, EPA, & OSHA Consultant

When you work with gases every day, safety becomes second nature. Keeping customers educated about the dangers they face is paramount. Stay safe, and help your customers do the same.

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