Media has played a significant role in helium huffing for years. Take for example Gina, the helium-huffing giraffe. Now, there is the new trend from the latter half of 2015 that introduced helium burping. On the surface, inhaling helium from a balloon to produce a high-pitched, squeaky voice that sounds like a silly cartoon character seems harmless. While 99.9% of the time it only leads to brief fun, inhaling helium can cause serious injury or death, according to the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC).
Although many people inhale helium as a means of “fun” the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that inhaling helium is so effective at killing that it’s the preferred method of suicide in the U.K, over marijuana, ecstasy, GHB, and mephedrone, combined. In the U.S., although few states report statistics pertaining specifically to helium-related deaths, Florida documented nine helium inhalation fatalities in 2010, representing 20% of all inhalation deaths in the state that year.
Although many victims of helium inhalation are not intentionally trying to kill themselves, unfortunately several accidental helium fatalities have occurred, especially among children and teens. In 2012, a 14-year-old girl died after inhaling helium from tank. She passed out and later died at the hospital. Cause of death was determined as obstruction in a blood vessel caused by inhaling helium from the pressurized tank. The most recent death was an 8-year-old girl in Israel who inhaled helium from a balloon at her sister’s birthday party. Paramedics rushed to the girl’s home after she collapsed, but pronounced her dead after resuscitation attempts failed. While no reports indicate that anyone has died or been hospitalized specifically from helium burping, this behavior is equally dangerous.
The NIPC says that when you inhale helium, the oxygen in your lungs becomes displaced, potentially depriving vital organs of the oxygen they require. Lack of oxygen to the brain can become fatal within seconds. You could also have an air embolism (gas bubbles in the blood that can cause seizures), black out, or lose consciousness. In addition, pressurized tank gas can cause lungs to rupture.
This is no laughing matter; it is scary stuff! Just because something is legal, doesn’t make it safe. Ingesting any substance for the sake of getting high or just changing your voice can be dangerous. Parents, educate your children about the danger of inhaling anything, including helium. Bottom of FormFor more information on the dangers of inhalants visit the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) or the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC).
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.