Subject: 12 Year Old in Coma After Inhaling Helium
From: Alex Kemp
Date: Friday, 06 February 2015 05:54:06 +0000
To: Oliver Kemp, Micaela Kemp, Liisa Kemp, Davin Kemp

These are the members of the pop group 3B Junior:

3B Junior, a collection of Japanese girls aged between 10 & 16, feature in a TV Asahi show called “3B Junior Stardust Shoji”.

On 28 January the (unnamed) girl took part together with other members of her group in a ‘game’ that involved breathing in from a canister of compressed Helium gas. Unlike the others, this girl fell unconscious & did not awake until Thursday, 5 February 2015. The TV Show kept quiet about the whole affair until she woke up. The Show was originally scheduled for broadcast on 24 February, but may now be discontinued.

Helium is a perfectly astonishing gas. It is lighter than air, which allows balloons filled with it to float to the ceiling. If breathed in, it will cause a person’s voice to become squeaky. Now obviously, death, or brain-damage, is a perfectly reasonable risk for such a wonderful enhancement.

What most folks do not realise is that all Helium, once released into the atmosphere, eventually escapes into space due to thermal escape (also called Jeans escape) (the kinetic energy of the molecules--which means their speed through the air due to ordinary heating from the atmosphere--is high enough to be greater than the escape velocity for this planet, and thus they leave the planet & disperse into space). This is only true for the lightest elements; it is calculated that the current rate of loss for our planet is about three kilograms (3 kg) of hydrogen and 50 grams (50 g) of helium per second (Hydrogen is the lightest element, and Helium the next-lightest element, on the planet).

If you find the previous paragraph at all difficult, then just recall the famous instructions on “How to Fly” from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

Throw yourself at the ground, and miss

...and realise that that is how Hydrogen & Helium manage to leave this planet.

Next question: so where does Helium come from if it is constantly leaving? The answer is that it (and Hydrogen) are constantly created by radioactive elements on Earth breaking down. As just one example, Helium is a natural component in vast quantities together with Natural Gas supplies in the USA.

Final question: how come the child star fell into a coma? The most likely reason is that she got an air embolism in the artery supplying her brain, possibly caused by her taking the Helium directly from the compressed container rather than from a balloon (although Helium is one of the few gases that does *not* cause Nitrogen narcosis).

Air embolisms are a constant danger for deep-sea divers. Helium is a component of the gas tanks for deep diving, which is done in order to remove nitrogen narcosis & reduce oxygen toxicity at depth. Because we live at the bottom of a vast column of air, the pressure of that air causes some of those gases to dissolve in our blood. If a human goes deep diving, that pressure increases immensely, and consequently the amount of gas that will dissolve also increases. As the diver ascends back to the surface, then the gases come back out of the blood & body, but that is a slow process. The deeper the diver goes then the more breaks that the diver has to take on the way back to the surface. If they come back up too quickly, then the diver will get the bends (decompression sickness) - if anyone has ever shaken a can of pop & then given it to you to open, you will have some idea of what that may be like. Bubbles of air can appear all over the body; if they appear within an artery that can lead to an embolism which can then block the flow of blood & can easily be fatal.

Alex Kemp