Helium is typically found as a gas at room temperature. Since it is relatively stable and lighter than air, it is frequently used to make balloons float. Although inhaling a helium-oxygen mixture can be beneficial--it lessens the toxicity of nitrogen and oxygen in divers' tanks--breathing in pure helium from a tank can have detrimental effects.
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Since the body has no use for helium, inhaling it displaces oxygen and can lead to asphyxiation if too much is breathed in.
Helium contained in tanks is under high pressure and will be expelled rapidly when inhaled from such a container, possibly rupturing lungs.
Inhaling helium from a balloon is safer than inhaling it from a tank since the helium in a balloon is at the same pressure as the atmosphere.
Effects on the Body
Inhaling helium gas has no reactive effects on the body. It only changes the speed sound travels--to a higher frequency than that of air--giving people who breathe it a squeaky voice.
Inhaling liquid helium stored in any sort of container would be dangerous since it is liquid and stored at extremely low temperatures.
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