You may recognize dry ice as the familiar white plume that crawls along stages at music concerts and theatre shows. Dry ice adds drama and atmosphere to performances, making it very popular in the show business industry.
As dry ice is just solidified carbon dioxide, when it melts it turns into carbon dioxide gas. As you know, carbon dioxide is all around us in the atmosphere at all times, but this is only in very small concentrations.
Carbon dioxide gas is colorless and odorless, which makes it difficult to be sure of how much is in a certain environment at any given time. Dry ice is also extremely cold, measuring a penetrating -109.3 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dry ice is just hardened carbon dioxide that has turned straight from a solid into a gas, completely bypassing the liquid state phase. This process is known as sublimation.
Because of this process, when dry ice is used to keep food and drinks chilled, you won’t see any water or condensation left behind like you would expect to see if you were using regular ice.
So, can I eat it?
No. You should never ingest dry ice as it can be harmful. This is why gloves should be worn at all times, even when just handling the substance.
You may find yourself wondering what concoction of dangerous chemicals is in dry ice, but that shouldn’t be your first concern.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not the chemicals in dry ice that are going to cause you harm. Ingesting carbon dioxide by itself isn’t much of a problem.
This is why we’re able to tolerate carbon dioxide daily in things like soda, fizzy drinks and the atmosphere. However, it is in fact the temperature of dry ice that is dangerous.
What will happen if I eat it anyway?
If you for some reason decide to munch down on a slab of dry ice, you will find out almost immediately that it burns, a lot.
It’ll firstly burn the inside of your mouth, probably enough to make you spit it out, recoil in horror and regret your recent life choices.
But if you somehow manage to keep it down, however it will more than likely scorch all the way down your esophagus and eventually your stomach.
If you hold dry ice with your bare hands, it will begin to kill your skin cells immediately due to its sub-zero temperature.
It is believed that dry ice is cold enough to kill cells up to a quarter of an inch deep and can cause burns and frostbite. If left untreated, frostbite can worsen and develop into gangrene, which can potentially be life-threatening.
Also, dry ice turns into a gas, and this is still the case even inside your stomach. This gas will begin to fill up your tummy which can cause burping and discomfort.
If you’re unable to burp out the gas, the pressure can accumulate which may eventually rupture your stomach completely.
At this point, you’d experience severe pain and vomiting. If you didn’t get to the hospital immediately, you’d die. So please don’t try this at home.
What should I do if I’ve accidentally ingested some dry ice?
While not much information exists out there guiding people on what to do in the case of a dry ice ingestion emergency, it’s pretty obvious that you should seek medical attention right away.
Whether you call an ambulance or head to a hospital, do not wait around- this is a medical emergency!
If you or someone you know has ingested dry ice, vomiting can help to bring up the dry ice and prevent permanent damage. However, make sure to only follow the advice given to you by medical professionals.
Is dry ice worth it?
It can be hard to imagine a suspenseful showbiz stage moment without the presence of an ankle-height rolling white cloud.
Despite how pretty this can look and how excited it can make us, it’s pretty pointless in every other sense.
If you have no insatiable interest in finding out what dry ice tastes like, you’ll probably never be negatively affected by it.
However, here are a few dangers of using dry ice and coming into contact with it:
- Dry ice can cause burns or frostbite. Avoid skin contact with dry ice and consider handling it wearing cloth or leather gloves, using towels, etc.
- Dry ice should never be consumed. Not only can it burn internally, but it also releases gas as it turns from a solid to a gas.
- Sometimes at nightclubs and bars, it is used in drinks. Dry ice bubbles and makes fog when submersed into warmer liquids. However, serving a customer a drink with dry ice in it allows the possibility that the customer can swallow it. Although it’s usually safe, avoid any drinks with dry ice in them.
- Store dry ice in a well-ventilated area to minimize the build-up of carbon dioxide. The sublimated carbon dioxide gas will sink to low areas and replace oxygenated air. This could cause suffocation if breathed exclusively. Proceed with caution if you’re storing dry ice in a deep freezer, it can be easier than you think to fall in.
- Do not store dry ice in a tightly sealed container. Gas can build up and cause an explosion.
- Ventilation is important to prevent the build-up of carbon dioxide. Do not store dry ice in a confined area such as in walk-in coolers, refrigerators, freezers, or vehicles.
- Do not dispose of dry ice in a sink, toilet, or other drains.
- Dry ice can crack solid countertops or tiled surfaces due to its extremely cold temperature.
While dry ice is a fun addition to many good nights, it’s not essential and it is certainly not worth hurting yourself for.
We’re not suggesting that you avoid dry ice and the pleasure it can bring completely, we just hope that you experience it responsibly and never, ever try to consume it.