At one point in my career I used to rely on dry ice to create fog and smoke effects. I’ve always been fascinated with the stuff – it’s super cold, squeals wildly when placed on metal, makes water “boil,” and can asphyxiate you pretty quickly. That last point is pretty important.
I made the mistake once (and only once) of lying on the floor of a CO2 fog-covered set to see if some lights were in the right position. The moment I hit the floor my throat immediately closed and I stopped breathing for one very long moment. I panicked. Lots of stuff went through my head until I realized (duh) all I had to do was to get up out of the fog. Was I shocked at the speed in which my lungs shut down.
While CO2 is about .035 percent of the air we naturally breathe, increase that to 30 percent and you’re in for convulsions, coma or death within a minute. Make that pure carbon dioxide and, well, I’d guess death might come even faster. I’m not looking to find out. I’m just sayin’.
A few of my personal rules for working with dry ice are:
1. Don’t handle the stuff with your bare hands. Ever. (Give or take, CO2 freezes at about minus109.3 degrees Fahrenheit, water freezes into ice at 32.)
2. Never stick your face into an ice chest filled with dry ice. Ever. (Refer back to the third paragraph of this blog post.)
3. Do not let dry ice come in contact with expensive electronic devices. Ever. (Just another one of those learning experiences not covered here.)
Anyway, once burned, twice shy. But I’ve come to love what dry ice freezing does to food, so this week I used dry ice to freeze miscellaneous crustaceans and fish into a crystalline state.