Basic Dry Ice Safety Tips

Dry ice has become a major ally in many industries. Gone are the days where dry ice was being used only for keeping foods and beverages cool. Sure, it still serves that function, but it has also become a necessity in other industries.

Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide. It is generally used as a cooling agent and is a top choice for fog machines to achieve that dramatic smoke effect in theatres. 

Safety Tips when Handling Dry Ice

Considering its extensive applications in the food and beverage industries, in scientific research, and the manufacturing and pharmaceutical fields, there are certain precautions to be taken when handling dry ice as it is still a hazard.

It is essential to be aware of how to properly handle, store, and even transport dry ice because any lapses could be fatal.

Handling

Dry ice is exceptionally cold at -109.3°F (or -78.5°C). If your bare skin is exposed to dry ice, it can burn the skin. 

When handling dry ice, you should wear the appropriate protective gear and gloves. Use a thermal or leather glove. Even a towel or your oven mitts could work. 

Touching it briefly is harmless, but it can freeze your cells if you have prolonged contact with dry ice, resulting in a burn-like injury.  

Storing

Carbon dioxide classifies as a simple asphyxiant. It is a type of gas that can become so intense that it can push out the oxygen in the air. 

Thus, dry ice should never be used in small and confined spaces. Keep it in a well-ventilated area to reduce the risk of the carbon dioxide becoming too concentrated.

For transportation, dry ice should be stored in a thick insulated container to slow down the sublimation process. You need it to be reduced at a plodding pace because carbon dioxide may cause the holding vessel to expand too much and explode.

At home and in commercial places, never attempt to keep dry ice inside your refrigerator freezer because its frigid temperature can cause the thermostat to shut down the entire system.

Ventilation

When transporting dry ice, open windows to let air circulate. The goal is for the concentration of carbon dioxide in your breathing space to never go above 0.5%. More than that will be a health hazard.

If the dry ice has been stored in an enclosed space for a while, leave the doors, windows, and other vents open for some time to allow air to circulate. Air out the area as much as possible before you enter.

Disposal

If you have an open space that can be off-limits to people, use that area to dispose of the unused dry ice. The ventilation alone can cause the dry ice to sublimate and take care of the carbon dioxide. This can take several days, so make sure the place doesn’t have traffic.

Dry ice should never be disposed of in your drain, toilet, or sink. The significant temperature difference can lead to broken structures and fixtures. And, of course, don’t dispose of this solid carbon dioxide in the garbage either.

Final Thoughts

Dry ice is not something to tinker or play around with. While it does create some fun effects, never forget that dry ice is a potentially dangerous substance. 

With proper and safe handling, it can continue to serve its purpose in the many industries it is being used in.

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