One More Terrifying Thing Parents Haven't Thought Of) warns parents of the dangers of inhaling helium. But, helium is not dangerous. To suggest otherwise is irresponsible at best, and fear mongering at worst. There is a greater (and calculable) risk due to latex allergies than to asphyxiation by helium (which was not the cause of death to Ashley Long). Helium is inert, and non bioactive. It does nothing, except prevent oxygen from reaching hemoglobin, which is very different than competing for hemoglobin. (Wait a minute! Did you just say prevent oxygen from reaching hemoglobin?! That’s dangerous, right?) What she fails to inform her readers is that we all prevent oxygen from reaching hemoglobin every day. Talking, laughing, swallowing, brushing your teach, washing your face, blowing a bubble, singing, orgasms, etc., all interrupt normal breathing and are biologically equivalent to inhaling helium. (But they use helium in suicide kits, so it must be dangerous!) Wrong. Contemplating suicide is where the danger is, not the helium. If you are ready to kill yourself by asphyxiation, there are hundreds of methods. (So why the helium then?) Because, it helps to prevent the panic response that occurs with asphyxiation. Nitrogen gas does the same thing. So does breathing into a carbon dioxide scrubber (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3dDQQcWhyU). Or taking sleeping pills and then tying a garbage bag around your head. (So, what’s the difference?) If you are NOT trying to kill yourself, AND you manage to asphyxiate with helium to the point of unconsciousness (nearly impossible), you will stop breathing the helium and start breathing oxygen normally. You will not die, but you may have a headache. Ashley was killed by pressure, not concentration (they are different) and certainly not helium. Lisa Belkin's article to parents should have been educate them about the real dangers of asphyxiation such as sitting in the garage with the car engine running or using a kerosene space heater in their dorm room. And to encourage parents to do everything they can to get their kids to experience and enjoy life. Parents can live, or they can live in fear. Which one is she promoting?
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