Can the Dry Ice in Your Car Kill You?

It’s fun to look at, but dry ice is no toy. Use it with caution.

Updated28 Aug 2019, 09:57 AM IST
Life Hacks
3 min read

Recently, it was reported that a woman in Washington, USA, died due to dry ice kept in a car.

According to reports, on 27 July, a 77-year-old woman was found dead in her son's car, in which several containers of dry ice were lying. Her son is an ice cream salesman and had kept four coolers of dry ice in the back of the car. It is believed that his mother died due to suffocation in the smoke of dry ice.

Could that really be it? Can dry ice used to keep ice cream from melting be fatal for someone?

What’s the Harm With Dry Ice?

Dry ice is a solid form of carbon dioxide gas, the same gas that we exhale from our bodies when we breathe.

Normal air contains 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and only 0.035% carbon dioxide. If the carbon dioxide in the air exceeds 0.5% then it can be dangerous.

In the normal environment, that is in room temperature, dry ice changes directly from the solid state to gas, a process known as sublimation.

So if you have put dry ice in a place where there is no better ventilation, it is possible that the concentration of carbon dioxide will increase so much that it can prove dangerous for you. So issues like rapid breathing, headache, confusion, asphyxia or even death.

Also read in Hindi:

What is Dry Ice Even Used For?

Dry ice in cocktai
Dry ice in cocktai
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Have you ever used dry ice? You may not have used it, but you must have seen special effects like smoke from theaters, you may have seen white mist rising in the drinks, there is dry ice here. Dry ice is especially used for freezing and keeping things frozen. It has many medical uses ranging from removing floor tiles. Apart from this, it also has many uses.

According to this report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), because carbon dioxide is odorless and colorless, people who use, transport and store dry ice must be educated about its potential dangers.

Using dry ice? Here are Some Things to Keep in Mind

A useful website, provides some information related to dry ice:

  • First of all, dry ice is very cold (-109.3 ° F or -78.5 ° C), so do not touch it directly with you hands.
  • Store dry ice in a container where the rate of sublimation is minimal.
  • Wherever you store dry ice, pay attention to ventilation, do not keep dry ice in the freezer of the refrigerator.
  • If you are carrying dry ice from a car or van, then keep in mind that the outside air keeps coming in.
  • If you have kept dry ice in a closed auto van, car or room for more than 10 minutes, then let the fresh air in before going inside.
  • If you have trouble breathing in such a place, have headaches, your lips or nails start to turn blue, then immediately go out and get some fresh air because all the symptoms indicate that you have inhaled too much carbon dioxide.
  • Do not store dry ice completely in airtight containers. Sublimation of dry ice can cause the carbon dioxide gas to expand the container or there is a risk of explosion.
  • If you’re drinking anything with dry ice, be careful not to eat the dry ice by mistake as this could be harmful.

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Published: 28 Aug 2019, 07:56 AM IST
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