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5 Consume Dry Ice in Gurugram Cafe, Manager Held: Can the Substance Be Deadly?

Consuming dry ice can cause the carbon dioxide levels in our blood to shoot up to harmful levels.

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Fit
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Three out of the five people who were hospitalised after accidentally consuming dry ice in a Gurugram cafe on Saturday, 2 March, have been discharged from Sector 90's Aarvy Hospital.

A purported video making the rounds on social media showed the five customers vomiting blood allegedly inside the cafe. Gurugram police said the manager of the cafe has been arrested in connection with the case.

According to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, dry ice is "commonly used as a cooling agent for food products like ice cream, frozen desserts etc."

However, an October 2019 FSSAI notification adds, "If not handled properly it may endanger human health, as it sublimes into large quantities of carbon dioxide gas which could pose a danger of breathlessness (hypercapnia)."

FIT reached out to doctors to understand why dry ice can be fatal and what it can do to our body. But first, here's a lowdown of what happened in Gurugram. 

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What Happened?

In the First Information Report accessed by FIT, the complainant Ankit Kumar said that on Saturday, he and five others – Neha Sabarwal, Manik Goenka, Pritika Rustagi, Deepak Arora, and Himani – were having dinner at Gurugram Sector 90's Laforestta Cafe at around 9:30 pm. 

After dinner, they were offered a "mouth freshener" by a waiting staffer, which they all (barring Ankit) consumed. They immediately felt a burning sensation in their mouth and started vomiting blood.

Despite their condition deteriorating, Ankit alleged in the FIR that "no staff member from the restaurant helped them."

When Ankit forcibly asked what they had given to his friends, the waiter showed a packet which Ankit then seized.

He added that he called the police helpline number and took the others to Aarvy Hospital in Sector 90. Ankit alleged:

"I showed the doctor that packet and he said we had been given dry ice, which can also be deadly. He said that they were experiencing chemical burns poisoning."

What the police said: Gurugram police officials said that a complaint had been registered under Section 328 (causing hurt by means of poison) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. 

The manager of the cafe, 30-year-old Gagandeep Singh, a resident of Delhi’s Kirti Nagar, was arrested by Gurugram police on Monday. He will be produced in court on Tuesday, officials said.

Kherki Daula Station House Officer Manoj Kumar, speaking to FIT on 5 March, said:

"Three out of the five people have been discharged from the hospital. The two patients who were critical have reported some improvement in their health condition. They should also be discharged by today or tomorrow. Further investigation is underway."

The Quint reached out to the cafe, but received no response. This story will be updated as and when we do.

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What is Dry Ice? What Happens When You Consume It?

According to Dr Saibal Chakravorty, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Metro Hospital Noida, "Dry ice is the solidified form of carbon dioxide. Once it goes inside our body, carbon dioxide is released in high amounts. It is an extremely cold substance, which is also used as a coolant in restaurants and eateries."

Dr Ashutosh Shukla, Medical Advisor and Senior Director, Internal Medicine, Max Hospital, Gurugram, concurs, saying:

"When dry ice evaporates and the CO2 levels suddenly increase, it can lead to CO2 Narcosis, basically meaning that the carbon dioxide levels in your blood have shot up to harmful levels."

What reaction does dry ice cause on your body? Both the doctors that FIT spoke to said that any interaction with dry ice can cause:

  • Burns

  • Erosion of skin at the point of contact

  • Ulcers in your mouth and stomach

  • Frostbite (since dry ice is a coolant)

  • Vomiting

  • Throwing up blood

  • Breathlessness

"It can also lead to more severe consequences like ulcers in the food pipe and the stomach, severe drop in blood pressure, fainting, etc."
Dr Ashutosh Shukla

But consuming dry ice can also be fatal.

How is it treated? Dr Chakravarty says that if dry ice is consumed in a small amount and has only led to smaller injuries, localised treatment plans are brought in place.

But if someone has consumed a large amount of dry ice, Dr Shukla says that the first step should be to stop exposure immediately. 

"In such cases, give the patient some cooling agent or antacid for immediate relief. You will also need to stabilise the person's vitals."
Dr Ashutosh Shukla

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Health   carbon dioxide   Gurugram 

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