After three people were injured on January 2 when a hydrogen-filled party balloon exploded inside a car, the Disease Control Department (DCD) has issued a warning and guidelines for reducing the risk.
A six-year-old boy was engulfed in flames and seriously injured in the balloon accident in Muang Nakhon Pathom.
DCD director-general Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai said it likely happened because the highly flammable hydrogen was leaking from the balloon the boy was holding at the same time a cell-phone was being unplugged from its charger, causing a tiny spark.
He said such accidents were common because hydrogen was so flammable and could be easily ignited by heat or sparks.
Balloons filled with both hydrogen and much safer helium are widely available, but the Office of the Consumer Protection Board wants hydrogen balloons labelled as controlled goods, requiring retailers to display signs warning “Do not place near flame or heat”.
To reduce the risk of explosions, Suwannachai recommended opting for helium instead. Helium is more expensive than hydrogen but far less flammable and less prone to leaks.
He said gas-filled balloons should never be kept inside a car, which can get hot while parked outdoors, or near light bulbs, heat sources or any flames.
And balloons shouldn’t be tied together, since friction could trigger an explosion.
Suwannachai said children should be closely watched and balloons kept out of their reach.
If a balloon explodes, the rubber remnants should be discarded immediately so children aren’t tempted to chew on them, he said. They could swallow the pieces and might choke.