Ministry of Health issues warning over laughing gas in funky balloons

August 28, 2023 - 07:03
In Việt Nam, nitrogen oxide is a food additive authorised for use in certain foods such as fermented milk, cream, fresh peeled or sliced fruits, pasta, noodles.


Funky balloons containing nitrous oxide are popular at bars and karaoke venues. — Photo

HÀ NỘI — The Ministry of Health has issued a warning about the risks of using balloons filled with nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, especially when mixed with other drugs.

Such use could lead to a lack of behavioural control, creating a threat to public safety.

This alert is raised in response to numerous local reports highlighting the sale and consumption of balloons filled with nitrous oxide in pubs, karaoke bars, and other entertainment venues.

The Ministry detailed that the chemical, with the formal name Dinitrogen monoxide, is utilised broadly across various sectors. In industry, it's used in the creation of solar cells, welding and cutting methods, machinery, analytical equipment, and for boosting engine power. In the medical field, it's administered for anaesthesia, sedation, and pain alleviation in dentistry, obstetrics, and sports. Moreover, it's used in the food sector, specifically as an additive in line with the Codex General Standard for Food Additives.

In Việt Nam, nitrous oxide is an approved food additive, permitted in products such as fermented milk, cream, freshly sliced or peeled fruits, pasta, and noodles.

Entities and individuals involved in the production and sale of food additives, including nitrous oxide, are mandated to self-declare their products to local food safety authorities and must adhere to guidelines for food additives. This includes ensuring they don't surpass the set limits and that they reduce the quantity of food additives without compromising human health.

The Ministry also highlighted concerns about the recreational misuse of nitrous oxide in balloons. Inhalation of this gas can stimulate various parts of the nervous system, inducing feelings of dizziness and spontaneous laughter.

Frequent misuse of nitrous oxide can result in issues like instability in walking, mood and memory problems, sleep irregularities, cardiac symptoms, reduced blood pressure, and decreased blood flow to the brain.

The Ministry has thus directed local bodies to increase oversight on the production, sale, and consumption of nitrous oxide and to enforce stricter penalties on its misuse. Concurrently, efforts should be made to educate the youth about the potential negative outcomes of misusing this gas.

Businesses are expected to rigorously adhere to the regulations regarding food additive usage and avoid their abuse or misuse. They must also abide by the guidelines pertaining to the import and trade of the gas as a food additive. — VNS