If you've ever seen dry ice handled, you've probably been quite fascinated by how it works.
This cooling agent that creates smoke-like fog clouds is most commonly used to preserve food, especially items that must remain frozen, like ice cream.
Despite the fact that dry ice is so cold it could burn your skin, it's also a solid form of carbon dioxide, which is what really makes it dangerous.
Inhaling large amounts of CO2 can be lethal - and this recent news story proves it.
Dippin' Dots' Delivery Car
Last week, the wife and mother of an ice cream salesman were found passed out in a car with four coolers of dry ice.
The unnamed man who runs the business had his wife drive his mother home at night. When he woke up the next morning, he realized his wife hadn't returned.
He found the car parked a few blocks away, where the two women appeared to be unconscious.
The man broke the window with a rock in attempt to rescue his family, and then called 911.
The 77-year-old mother reportedly died of suffocation, while his 51-year-old wife is in critical condition.
According to the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office in Tacoma, Washington, the only explanation is death from inhaling large amounts of carbon dioxide that was stored in the back seat of the car.
“He had four coolers full of dry ice because he delivered Dippin’ Dots to various locations,” the sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer told News Tribune.
Connecting The Dots
When dry ice is exposed to open air, it can become lethal. And because it's odorless and colorless, by the time that someone realizes that the oxygen levels in the confined space they're in is depleting, it's too late.
Symptoms of oxygen deprivation include headache, confusion, disorientation, but it can take only minutes for death to occur.
"You feel sleepy, dizzy, but you don't have the intention to open up the air," Dr. Kris Permentier, head of the emergency department at a hospital in Belgium, told CNN. "You don't have the strength [or] the brain capacity to open up the doors or the windows."
Experts believe that because the victims were driving in a new car, which was likely non-ventilated, they were more at risk of falling ill.
“He recently got a new car. The newer car probably had better sealing," Troyer added. "It was a combination of things that went terribly wrong."
The man who owned the car was not an employee of the corporation, but Dippin' Dots' CEO still released a statement.
"This horrific accident has shaken our entire business family and our thoughts are with our longtime franchisees and their employee," Scott Fischer said in a statement.
"We take dry ice handling precautions and safety procedures very seriously, and this incident is a painful reminder for all of us who handle dry ice of the inherent dangers of working with the product."
While these deaths are rare, it's important to be aware of the risks.
Dry ice isn't much better than liquid nitrogen-infused snacks. A Florida mom recently posted an urgent warning about the snack, Dragon's Breath, after her son was rushed to hospital.