When Helium Inhaling Goes Wrong

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Helium tricks gone wrong. From a squeaky voice to the helium challenge – here are some facts about helium.

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Voiceover by Carl Mason: carlito1705@icloud.com

Helium is the second-lightest element on the Periodic Table as well as the second-most abundant element in the universe. It’s a tasteless, odorless and colorless. At temperatures of around minus 456 degrees Fahrenheit, helium turns into a superfluid. Superfluid helium can flow through any leak and even upwards in a container’s walls. Because of its very low density, helium floats in air. This is what’s responsible for the squeaky voice effect. Sound travels almost three times faster in helium than it does in air.
5: Japanese Singer
On February 4, 2015, during a Japanese television show, a member of the singing group 3B Junior used helium as part of a game. The episode never aired so it’s still unclear if the 12-year-old girl was using balloons or a tank. The incident was reported a week after it took place.
4: Eight-year-old Girl
In February 2016, an 8-year-old girl took a balloon, left over from her sister’s birthday. This happened at her home in the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Ata, Israel.
Where Is It Located?
Helium is difficult to find, hard to keep and non-recyclable. The element was first observed by French astronomer Pierre Janssen during a total eclipse of the sun, on August 18, 1868. While measuring the sun’s chromosphere with a spectroscope, Janssen noticed a yellow line with a wavelength of 587.49 nanometers. A couple of months later, English astronomer Sir Norman Lockyer observed the same yellow line and concluded that it was the trace of an unknown element. He named it ‘helium’ after Helios, the sun god in Ancient Greece. On Earth helium was first detected by Italian physicist Luigi Palmieri. Later, Swedish chemists Per Teodor Cleve and Nils Abraham Langer confirmed the presence of helium on Earth. Helium is used in everything from party balloons and blimp airships to the cooling of machines and the Large Hadron Collider. Since it can be brought to temperatures near absolute zero, it’s very useful in laboratory experiments requiring very cold temperatures.
3: Coral Jordan McDowell
On November 14, 2010, just days after her 13th birthday, Coral Jordan McDowell from Northern Ireland was found in her room. The large foil-type balloon had been bought for her birthday celebrations the previous week. It’s believed Coral wanted to get the squeaky voice effect.
How?
Since its low density enables it to basically replace the oxygen in the lungs, the pressure and high flow rate from the tank can result in barotrauma. Simply put, your lungs could burst. Air embolisms can occur when blood flow to the brain, is blocked by air bubbles.
2: Helium Hoods
The term refers to a plastic bag placed overhead that is secured at the neck and features a plastic tube attached to a tank that feeds helium into it. 91-year-old Sharlotte Hydorn, the owner of the company, had been selling homemade it for 20 years. She’d reportedly sold over 1,300 helium hoods to people across the US and abroad, making a small fortune without paying any taxes. The exit kit was shipped in a box with butterflies printed on it and accompanying instructions.
How?
The most obvious tip is to avoid helium altogether. But if you do, never use helium from a pressurized tank and despite its popularity from a balloon is strongly discouraged by most medical professionals. If you do it make sure to only take highly controlled breaths, allowing the helium to exit and for oxygen to come back. That feeling only occurs when there’s too much carbon dioxide in your lungs. The lack of oxygen can lead to a common reaction known as a helium headache. This is treatable by lying flat on your back and remaining still while taking slow, deep breaths. Hold each breath for a few seconds before exhaling. This should replenish the needed oxygen and make the headache go away.
1: Ashley Long
In February 2012, after telling her parents that she was going to a slumber party, 14-year-old Ashley Long got into a car with several of her friends. They drove to a condo in Medford, Oregon to the party. People at the party kept telling her that nothing would happen as one of the boys kept holding the mask up to her mouth. Ashley eventually agreed.

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