Gurugram cafe mouth freshener case: What is 'dry ice'? Why is it dangerous? - Hindustan Times
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Gurugram cafe mouth freshener case: What is 'dry ice'? Why is it dangerous?

Mar 05, 2024 03:53 PM IST

"I showed the packet of the mouth freshener to a doctor, who said it was dry ice," the complainant said.

Five people fell ill after consuming a mouth freshener containing dry ice at a restaurant in Gurugram, police said on Monday. The owner of the eatery was later arrested.

People were screaming and vomiting after consuming dry ice contaminated mouth freshener.(Dry ice representative image- cottonbro studio)
People were screaming and vomiting after consuming dry ice contaminated mouth freshener.(Dry ice representative image- cottonbro studio)

What is dry ice?

Dry ice is the solid form of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and is extremely cold, with a temperature of about -78 degrees Celsius. This is much colder than the freezing point of water, which is 0 degrees Celsius.

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According to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), it is commonly used as a cooling agent for food products like ice cream, frozen desserts etc. It is frequently used for food items that are needed to be cold or frozen, without the use of mechanical cooling.

READ- 5 fall sick after having mouth freshener at Gurugram restaurant

How harmful is dry ice?

While it is not hazardous under normal handling and usage, direct contact with dry ice can cause frostbite or cold burns due to its extremely low temperature.

Additionally, if dry ice is exposed to warmer temperatures, it undergoes sublimation, transitioning directly from a solid to a gas, producing carbon dioxide gas. In confined spaces, this release of carbon dioxide gas can displace oxygen, leading to potential health risks.

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What if you inhale dry ice?

Carbon dioxide is a common metabolic substance found in body fluids and tissues. It plays a crucial role in numerous metabolic reactions and serves as a regulatory element for various mechanisms within the circulatory system, including respiration, metabolism, and blood pH control.

The physiological impact of breathing in low volumes of CO2 is generally negligible. However, exposure to high concentrations of CO2 can potentially lead to asphyxiation, reads a US government's health advisory.

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Dos and Don'ts when handling dry ice:

• Don't touch dry ice with bare hands, as it can cause frostbite or cold burns due to its extremely low temperature. Wear insulated gloves or use tongs when handling dry ice to avoid direct contact with your skin.

• Don't store dry ice in airtight containers, as the sublimation of dry ice releases carbon dioxide gas, and pressure can build up. Store dry ice in a cooler or an insulated container to slow down its sublimation.

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• Don't use dry ice in closed or unventilated spaces, as it can displace oxygen and lead to respiratory issues. FSSAI advises dry ice should only be used/exposed to open air in a well-ventilated environment

• Don't ingest or swallow dry ice, as it can cause severe injury or harm.

• Don't allow children or pets to play with or handle dry ice without supervision, as it can be dangerous.

• Do label containers containing dry ice to alert others to its presence.

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