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Liquid Nitrogen Burn

Liquid nitrogen has been seen in freeze tests and other random experiments across the web, such as vs an Apple watch or vs a cooled gummy bear. Little do people know how deadly it can be.

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October, 1999--Edinburgh, Scotland: a massive chemical leak in the West General Hospital kills a laboratory assistant through asphyxiation and injures four others in a freak accident. Would you know what to do if you encountered liquid nitrogen?

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What is it?
Liquid nitrogen is a colorless, clear liquid produced by a process called fractional distillation of air. Simply put, it's nitrogen in a liquid form at a very low cooled temperature. It's cold temperature, along with its low production costs, make it an extremely useful liquid gas found throughout many different industries, although it can also be fatal or can cause severe injuries to those handling it. Some people have used it in the ice bucket challenge while knowing very little about playing with its dangerous effects.

Where is it located?
Liquid nitrogen is extremely useful and can therefore be found everywhere throughout the world because of its size, ease in transportation, and cheap production costs. Some of its uses include cryogenics and cryosurgery, the removal of warts, shrink welding, and even food preparation, such as in the production of ice cream.

How will it kill you?
As liquid nitrogen evaporates, it--like lava--reduces the air's oxygen concentration, which is extremely dangerous in confined spaces as it is tasteless, odorless, and colorless. Inhalation of air with high nitrogen and low oxygen concentrations can lead to death through asphyxiation. Making physical contact with it can also result in painful cold burns, which cause severe blistering on your skin as seen here.

How to survive:
Treating cold burns from liquid nitrogen is similar to treating frostbite. Cleaning and covering the affected area with a warm compress should be done immediately in order to gently heat the tissue. Blisters that have been formed should not be popped or drained and must be left either uncovered or very loosely covered with a bandage while pressure on the blister must be avoided. Those working around liquid nitrogen in confined areas should have oxygen sensors installed. Should the nitrogen start evaporating and leaking into the surrounding environment, these sensors will alert workers of rising nitrogen concentrations and lowering oxygen levels.

Now what do you think is worse and why? Being diagnosed with encephalitis? Or being diagnosed with sarcoidosis?