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Using Dry Ice To Create Spooky Halloween Effect Can Be Dangerous

(credit: Annette Brown/Getty Images)

(credit: Annette Brown/Getty Images)

Pat Loeb Pat Loeb
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By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Americans are expected to spend close to $7-billion on Halloween this year and the crowning touch on many a display is the dry ice “smoke” that will billow from pumpkins and doorways. But dry ice can be hazardous.

“Probably nine out of ten people that walk in the door here have the wrong conception of how to use dry ice,” says Jim McGinty, co-owner of Jim’s Enterprises, which does a brisk dry ice business this time of year.

The buyers tend to be amateurs at special effects so he has to school them.

“A lot of people say ‘I’m coming here to buy dry ice, I want to put it in a punch bowl so it’ll smoke’ and then I have to tell them you can’t put it in a punch bowl,” McGinty says, “because if somebody takes one little piece of that dry ice and swallows it, it can kill them.”

McGinty says the trick is to put it in a crock pot in back of the punch bowl. The smoke will roll down to give the illusion that it’s coming from the bowl but, yes, ingesting it is fatal and touching it will cause a burn, so it must be handled with care.

McGinty also warns customers not to transport it in an airtight container, and leave your car windows open a crack when you take it home.

“It does eat up oxygen,” he says, “so if you have a lot of it in there, you feel like you’re drowning, like huff, huff, huff, there’s no air.”

That could be the wrong kind of scary.

But McGinty says dry ice does have lots of uses.

“Put a little dish detergent in it and the dish detergent will bubble,” he says, “and as the bubbles pop, smoke comes out and that looks really cool.”

The kids will love it.