Helium is a safe, inert, non-combustible, non-toxic gas that is lighter than air.

Helium is an inert gas that is used extensively in industrial, medical and scientific applications. Some common uses include:

  • In the welding industry as an inert shielding gas;
  • In heat treatment applications requiring a protective atmosphere;
  • In gas lasers as a buffer or carrier gas;
  • As a calibration gas;
  • To fill large balloons for upper atmosphere studies
  • To fill small balloons to carry meteorological instruments
  • As breathing gases for divers in combination with oxygen
  • To cool the superconductive magnets in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) for analytical or medical purposes;
  • In medical gas mixtures for respiratory assistance, to gain access to obstructed airways to ensure oxygen flow, lung function test, pulmonary physiology investigations.

Safety Concerns

Being odourless, colourless, tasteless and non-irritating, helium has no warning properties. Although helium is nontoxic and inert, it can act as a simple asphyxiant by displacing oxygen in the air to levels below that required to support life.

Inhalation of helium in excessive amounts can cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness and death.

ANZIGA is concerned by the continued use of the ‘squeaky voice’ helium balloon gas trick and would like the general public and, in particular, the media to be better aware of the dangers.

There has been some particularly irresponsible broadcasting, depicting such activities as ‘harmless fun’. ANZIGA deplores such activities and such broadcasting.

To alert the public to the dangers of inhaling helium the following community service announcement and safety advice has been developed by BOC and ELGAS and supported by ANZIGA and BASA http://begaswise.com/

Further information on the safety of helium, its uses and controls can be found in this ANZIGA Safety Advice.

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