Pioneer Balloon Company
Date: Tue, 1 Feb 2000 03:33:58 EST
Subject: We represent the Super Bowl Guild

<< We all know that inhaling helium is a danger, 
 but does anyone out there know the extent of the danger, the hows & whys?   

I was going to respond to this, but I think Larry did an excellent job.  I 
have to say that I was concerned when I heard that FedEx was going to use 
manipulated footage from the greatest movie of all time that I have loved 
passionately all my life and how dare they profane the Wizard of Oz and...  
well, when I saw the commercial I was laughing and clapping my hands, and 
then I had this moment of politically correct awareness that I shouldn't be 
enjoying it so much, because after all, inhaling helium is, well, although 
generally relatively harmless, capable of causing as much harm as a hot cup 
of coffee at McDonald's.  Then I went back to laughing and clapping.  I 
thought it was a great commercial - two of my favorite things in the world - 
The Wizard of Oz and balloons.  Larry, I'm with you on this.  Remember back 
in elementary school, or high school, or whenever it was when you were told 
that you can't die from holding your breath because you'll pass out from lack 
of oxygen and then begin to breathe, thereby resuscitating yourself?  Same 
with inhaling helium.  It simply causes a lack of oxygen until you begin to 
breathe regular air again.  It's as dangerous as holding your breath.  There 
is no "drug" effect as with nitrous oxide (which makes you talk deeper for 
the same reason helium makes you talk higher) - you don't get "high" from 
inhaling helium - maybe a little dizzy if you don't breathe any oxygen for a 
minute or two.  The dangers from inhaling helium are, as Larry says, 
breathing directly from the regulator.  Ever blow out the neck of a balloon 
when it wasn't on the nozzle staight?  Lungs are sort of like balloons.  
Pumping a gas at 2000 psi into your lungs is not a good idea.  Also, there is 
a risk of freezing some lung tissue or your lips from the cooling effect 
(ever feel the nozzle after inflating, say, a 3-footer?).

All that said, I must confess that I have inhaled helium only perhaps 3 or 4 
times in the last 15 years.  I probably did it more as a teenager before I 
owned a balloon business and had unlimited access to  helium.  I don't 
recommend it, in fact, because there is a slight risk involved, I caution my 
customers against it, but I also explain to concerned parents, especially the 
bar/bat Mitzvah parents (95% chance there will be some helium sucking at a 
balloon bar mitzvah) that it is nothing to worry about.  Inert, non toxic, 
just like holding your breath, scuba divers, etc.

Okay, now a bunch of you are mad at Larry AND me.  Oh well.  What about all 
those beer commercials (alcohol-related traffic deaths result in 10,000 to 
20,000 deaths per year)  How about cruelty to animals?  That poor dog jumping 
that hedge?  That poor cheetah who swallowed the Mountain Dew?  I'd rather my 
10-year old daughter watch a couple of munchkins inhaling helium than 
watching an ad for some TV show where some man and woman are sticking their 
tongues down each other's throats while the announcer invites us all to tune 
in "Wednesday at 8/7 Central Time".

One interesting note regarding package delivery services and helium balloons. 
 I once tried to send a box containing 3 helium filled foil balloons via UPS. 
 I made the mistake of listing the contents as "helium balloons" and they 
refused to send them because the package contained a hazardous material.  The 
clerk faced a far greater danger of ME exploding at that moment!  I learned 
not to discuss the contents of my packages with the UPS clerks any more.  
There are few things worse than  stupid clerks blindly following what they 
believe to be regulations because they suffer from the same ailment as the 
Scarecrow of OZ.  Next time I'll send them FedEx.

<<Now that we've established that there are more dangerous things you can put
in your mouth than helium, I'm going to go back to packing the props for my
show tonight.  I misplaced my fire-eating wands.>>

Larry, for Heaven's sake, PLEASE make sure not to breathe Hydrogen instead of 
helium before doing the fire eating trick!

     O~     Danny Magowan
O~          Balloon AffAIRs
   O~       Syracuse NY

P.S. Word is that President Clinton once tried breathing helium, but he 
didn't inhale.  George W. Bush hasn't inhaled helium in the last 17 years, 
and before that it's none of your business.