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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Are Dry Ice Smoke Machines Safe for Pets?

By October 28, 2013

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Dog and dry ice smoke machine. (Anne Helmenstine)Halloween parties are the best! There are cool costumes, Halloween party beverages (especially those that glow in the dark) and spooky fog. Have you ever thought about the safety of the fog? Here's a question from a reader that you may be wondering about, too:

"... I just have one quick question that I can't seem to find the answer to anywhere. My husband and I will be throwing a small party/get-together around Halloween and we are planning on using a Fog Machine that using Dry Ice. We have a Beagle. We want to make sure that this fog machine would not cause any issues with our dog being that she isn't far from the ground, hehe."

My reply: It's true that there will be a higher concentration of carbon dioxide closer to the ground, but as long as there is air circulation in the room, it shouldn't pose a risk for your dog. If she will be present during the party, you might want to be sure she can exit the room with the fog machine at will. I don't think it's likely she will nap during the party where all the activity is taking place, but you might want to discourage her from sleeping on the floor near the machine. If she seems sleepy or irritable, I'd probably relocate her to a different room.

Dry ice sublimates to become carbon dioxide. The cool carbon dioxide sinks to the floor of the room, where it eventually mixes with the air. To some extent, the carbon dioxide will displace the warmer air, but people moving around will mix the fog into the air fairly quickly. Unless you are flooding a sealed room with carbon dioxide or using a whole lot of dry ice, the risk from the increased concentration of the gas is slight. It's a good idea to keep a watch on pets or small children, since they would be breathing a higher concentration of the gas (i.e., lower percentage of oxygen) than adults. Also, people with respiratory problems may have less tolerance to the lower oxygen concentration.

Generally speaking, water, dry ice, and liquid nitrogen fog are all very safe. How do you know if there is too little oxygen in the air? The usual tip-offs would be headache, feeling sleepy, nausea, and dizziness. If someone at a party with dry ice or liquid nitrogen fog experiences these symptoms, remove him or her to an area with fresh air. You may want to increase the air circulation for everyone else, too, or stop making fog for a while, just to be safe.

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October 15, 2012 at 10:24 pm
(1) Mike Broderick says:

When I was a teenager I worked as a stage manager for a play that had a smokey caldron on stage. The fog from it resulted from a kettle of hot water poured over a small block of dry ice. I couldn’t resist to become the guinea pig for my own experiment ro find out what would happen if I put a chink in my mouth. I found that my saliva caused it to go from a solid to a gas so quickly that a film of the gas around the chunk prevented it from making contact with the tissye on the inside of mt mouth. It was a mouth opening experience.

October 27, 2012 at 5:52 pm
(2) Dr IL Donaldson says:

My asthmatic wife starts to cough if ever she inhales the mist from dry ice used in theatrical productions. I have often wondered if this is because it may contain small quantities of sulfur dioxide as a contaminant. In 1967 I worked in a chemistry lab at Marburg University, West Germany. We used dry ice to condense vapors in our vacuum lines. I put some lumps in tap water and after they had evaporated, I tasted it, expecting to get a cool soda drink of fizzy water. Horrifyingly, the water had become undrinkable. It was not fizzy, and though it was a bit cold, it tasted strongly of sulfurous acid, i.e. sulfur dioxide dissolved in water. I concluded that the industrial CO2 gas used to make the dry ice had been contaminated by SO2. Perhaps it had come from a smoke stack?
Can anyone tell me please what is the common source of CO2 used for dry ice?

November 5, 2013 at 11:04 pm
(3) Brandi Kinder says:

As stated in the article, if there is air circulation in the room your pet should be found.

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