Healthcare

Dry ice, dramatic but nasty

Hyderabad: Cubes of dry ice dropped in ice-cream packs are safe if they do not come in touch with the skin. Cubes that give a dramatic effect are not nitrogen but a solid form of carbon dioxide which is used to freeze icecreams provided it is all consumed once it is vaporised. Unlike nitrogen, carbon dioxide gets absorbed by the body as it does not produce too much gas when it comes in contact with higher temperatures. Laparoscopic surgeon Dr Venu Gopal Pareek explained, “Dry ice is solidified carbon dioxide gas and it is used as a cooling agent. Its melting point is much lower than of conventional ice.

“Dry ice melts around – 40ºC. Even if it is exposed to Hyderabad temperatures of 35ºC or 40ºC, it does not melt very fast. Instead, it turns into cool steam. But it should be dealt with very carefully due its extremely low temperature.  One should never touch it with bare hands as it can cause frost bites, similar to the ones suffered by those in Scandinavian countries.”

The surgeon further added, “Carbon dioxide if inhaled in huge quantities can cause breathing difficulties. Workers transporting dry ice must be careful. If large quantum of the substance is inhaled, it causes breathlessness and loss of sensory.”