Helium Gas Safety & Data Sheet

Helium Inhalation
It's No Laughing Matter.....

Have you ever been to a party where someone has inhaled helium to sound like Donald Duck? If so they have probably put their life at risk.  

Evidence has proven that the inhalation of helium can be fatal, yet thousands of partygoers continue to inhale helium thinking it to be incredibly funny rather than life threatening. The inhalation of helium cuts off a persons supply of oxygen and can cause dizziness, unconsciousness and ultimately death!

Doctors are concerned about the health risk associated with people inhaling helium. This is a particular problem when people are inebriated and their system is already contending with an outside influence.

According to a consultant occupational health physician People have not yet realised the extreme danger associated with helium inhalation. If the concentration of oxygen is decreased below 18% within the human body, symptoms and signs of asphyxia can occur. Helium gas can totally displace the available oxygen and if this is maintained for even a few seconds, asphyxia and death can and will occur.

In 1989 fifteen-year-old Michelle Moreno from Texas died from helium inhalation at a friends party. Her death caused major headlines in the United States regarding the dangers of helium inhalation. In Australia, Kristi Brash from Victoria had a near death experience when she appeared to freeze and turn blue after inhaling the entire contents of a balloon. Kristi fell motionless to the floor but luckily regained consciousness after a few minutes Kristi was rushed to hospital and after examination she appeared to be fine although any long-term effects of the inhalation are yet to be determined.

Comedy television and radio programmes often use helium as a device to get laughs only recently I have witnessed Jonathon Ross on his Friday night show doing just that. This portrays helium inhalation as a fun, safe practice when, in effect, it is deadly. Public figures are influential in the minds of the public and they need to realise that they could either die from helium use or be indirectly responsible for the death of another.

Unfortunately with people continuing to ignore the dangers of this potentially lethal practice, it is a difficult task to educate the public that helium inhalation is no laughing matter!


Helium General Information
  • Class: Inert Gases
  • Period: 1
  • IUPAC group: 18
  • Traditional: 0
  • Discovered in: 1868 by Stevenson & Janssen
  • Origin of name: Greek: helios, (the sun)
  • Historical or alternate name:
Common natural occurrences

Atmosphere, 1 part in 200,000; radioactive minerals as a decay product


Colorless, odorless gas; nonreactive chemically.

  • Atmosphere: 5.2 ppm
  • Primitive mantle: ~0.0 ppm
  • Sea water: 7.2e-6 ppm
  • Metallic meteorite: 56000.0 ppm
  • Continental crust: 0.008 ppm
  • Solar photosphere: 10.8 log of abundance
  • Oceanic crust: ~0.0 ppm
  • Solar system: 2.180E+9 relative to Si=1.0e6
Hazards and Tolerances


Inert nonflammable gas. Asphyxiant..

Human daily limits

  • Lower:
  • Upper:0.95

Helium Physical Properties

Transitional Data

  • State: Gas
  • Density: 0.1785 g/L

Molar enthalpy

  • Atomization: 0.0 kJ mol-1
  • Fusion: 0.021 kJ mol-1
  • Vaporization: 0.082 kJ mol-1

Transition points

  • Melting point: 0.95 K
  • Boiling point: 4.22 K
  • Critical temperature: 5.19 K

Molar properties

  • Atomic weight: 4.002602 g/mole
  • Molar volume: 19.61 cm3 mol-1

Crystal structure sequence

body-centered-cubic -> hexagonal-close-packed -> face-centered-cubic with increasing pressure


  • State: gas
    • Enthalpy 0
    • Gibbs function 0
    • Entropy 126.150
    • Heat Capacity 20.786

Miscellaneous physical

  • Electrical resistivity: µ-ohms/cm
  • Debye temperature: K
  • Thermal conductivity: 0.155 W / m / K
  • Coefficient of linear expansion: Coef. per K
  • Mass magnetic susceptibility: -5.9e-9
  • X-ray diffraction mass absorption coefficients:
    • CuK: 0.383 (µ/p)/cm2 g-1
    • MoK: 0.207 (µ/p)/cm2 g-1

Helium Chemical Properties

Chemical basics:

  • Oxidation states: 0
  • Molecular wt: 4.002602 g/mole


  • Covalent: pm
  • Atomic: 128 pm
  • Van der Waals: 122 pm



Covalent bonds


Effective nuclear charge

  • Slater: 1.70
  • Clementi: 1.69
  • Froese-Fischer: 1.62


  • Pauling:
  • Allred-Rochow:

Standard reactions



Helium Nuclear Properties

Number of isotopes:
  • Known 5
  • Listed 2
Isotope range:
  • Known 3 - 8
  • Listed 3 - 4
Nuclide 3
  • % Occ.:Natural 0.000138%
  • Mossbauer NRA:
  • Nuclear spin/Quantum no.: 1/2
  • Radioisotopes:
    • Half-life:
    • Decay mode:
    • Source:
  • Notes
Nuclide 4
  • % Occ.:Natural 99.999862%
  • Mossbauer NRA:
  • Nuclear spin/Quantum no.:
  • Radioisotopes:
    • Half-life:
    • Decay mode:
    • Source:
  • Notes
Thermal neutron capture
  • Isotope Cross-section 0.007 barns
Nuclear magnetic resonance  
Nuclide: 3
  • Absolute sensitivity: 5.75e-7 1H=1.0
  • Relative sensitivity: 0.44 1H=1.0
  • Receptivity: 0.00326 13C=1.0
  • Magnetogyric ratio: -20.378e7 rad / T / s
  • Quadropole moment: m2
  • Frequency: 76.178 MHz
  • Reference:

Helium Energy Properties


  • Ground state electron configuration: 1s2
  • Electron affinity: -21 kJ mol-1
  • Filling orbitals:

Ionization energies

Ionization level
He -> He+
Ionization potential

Atomic energy levels




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