There is a myth that inhaling helium will kill your brain cells. So is this true? Are you becoming more retarded if you (accidentally) inhaled helium from balloons? Let’s find out.
Does inhaling helium kill brain cells?
At some point in our lives, we are all likely to breathe in a balloon full of helium and enjoy the comical Donald Duck voice that follows. However, there is a myth that inhaling helium will actually kill your brain cells.
The good news is that inhaling helium does not kill brain cell. The bad news is that breathing helium can kill you – not because of the helium itself, but because of a shortage of oxygen when you inhale it. When you breathe in helium, you are not breathing in any oxygen, which your cells require; normally, we acquire this from the air we breathe. The shortage of oxygen caused by breathing in helium can result in fainting, asphyxiation, and death. This is especially possible if you breathe numerous helium-filled balloons without getting adequate oxygen in between. The bottom line is to avoid breathing any gas that is not already present in the surrounding air.
But why does helium alter your voice? Helium raises the pitch of your voice because it is six times lighter than air and sound travels faster through helium than through air. As a result, the less dense helium “suppresses” the low tones of your voice, allowing you to hear the high tones. Our sulfur hexafluoride demonstration had the opposite effect; because it is denser than air, it drowns out higher pitched noises and emphasizes lower pitch (actually timbre) of our voice. On a side note about sulfur hexafluoride, I obtain my liquid nitrogen from a great guy who never, ever smiles. That all changed when I paid him a visit with the sulfur hexafluoride tank, took a whiff of it through a balloon, and performed my evil laugh…we got a smile from him.
Can inhaling helium damage your brain?
Helium is totally harmless in balloons and when deflated in open, well-ventilated areas, but breathing it from balloons can be hazardous.
When you breath helium, it displaces oxygen in your lungs, which can lead to suffocation without your knowledge. Even a shallow breath might cause you to get dizzy or lightheaded without notice, potentially resulting in damage. This shortage of oxygen to the brain can harm your nervous system for the rest of your life and be lethal in seconds. A tiny helium bubble can also reach your bloodstream and cause organ damage. This can potentially result in a stroke or a heart attack.
So you should make sure to know How long does it take for helium to leave your body?