A CSA member called to our attention a TV commercial being run by State Farm that showed a very dangerous situation where people were inhaling helium. We sent State Farm the following letter after consulting with the Compressed Gas Association. They told us that the Gases and Welding Association had also sent a similar letter. None of us has received any answer.
March 26, 2019
Mr. Michael L. Tipsord
Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer
State Farm Insurance
One State Farm Plaza
Bloomington IL 61710
Dear Mr. Tipsord:
We at the Cryogenic Society of America add our voice to that of the Compressed Gas Association and GAWDA in expressing our deep concern about a State Farm commercial that has been running across the country, depicting an accident in a tunnel with an overturned helium truck.
This commercial makes light of an extremely dangerous situation and continuing to air it is irresponsible.
The spot treats the inhalation of helium as an entertaining, trivial event, without acknowledging the serious, even life-threatening, risks involved.
In the ad, motorists involved in a fender bender in a tunnel, as well as public safety officials working the scene of the accident, start speaking in funny, high-pitched voices after inhaling the escaping helium. No one is shown to be adversely affected. This runs contrary to the very real risks of injury and death posed by helium inhalation.
Oxygen is essential for life. Because helium displaces oxygen in the lungs, those who inhale it may suffer asphyxiation. For a normal, healthy person, even two breaths of an atmosphere containing no oxygen can cause loss of consciousness. Richard Gottwald, CGA president, has sent you their pamphlet, Hazards of Oxygen-Deficient Atmospheres. Surely this made an impression on you and your staff.
It is well-documented that there have been numerous instances in which inhaling helium has caused injury or death. We have seen that inhalation abuse is a growing phenomenon, so this commercial, casually suggesting that inhaling helium is funny, just sets the stage for more abuse.
The producers of this spot have sullied the State Farm brand, which should surely concern you. I urge you to make it known that State Farm will have no part in suggesting that helium inhalation is anything but a dangerous, potentially fatal, practice.
We urge you to pull this commercial as a public service.
Executive Director, Cryogenic Society of America