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New York Times article “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Stagecraft” (March 23, 2016)
Safety Standards (including Material Safety Data Sheets – MSDS)
Dry ice is frozen solid carbon dioxide which when placed into hot water sublimes into a gas and forms a thick white cold vapour which hangs low to the ground.
Dry ice is available in two main varieties – pellets and blocks. Pellets have a larger surface area, so produce a larger effect. A block will last longer, but won’t be as spectacular.
Due to it’s extreme cold, dry ice must only be handled wearing thick non-woollen gloves. Skin damage will occur if you touch dry ice directly. It goes without saying that dry ice must not enter your mouth!
Do not store dry ice in a freezer. The surface temperature of a block of dry ice is much lower than the freezer can maintain (minus 109.3 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 78.5 degrees Centigrade), and damage to the freezer may result. Also, dry ice should not be stored in an air tight container. As the dry ice sublimes, gas is produced which will cause a build-up of pressure, eventually resulting in an explosion.
The best way to store dry ice is in a polystyrene box with a loose fitting lid. The box should be packed with newspaper to help the dry ice keep itself cold.
Long-running shows or those that require a large amount of dry ice often use Carbon Dioxide gas bottles to produce their own dry ice on site, on demand. This removes the wastage due to storage losses.
Danger of suffocation
As carbon dioxide is heavier than air, you must take care that any area lower than the dry ice machine cannot fill with carbon dioxide which
If there’s more than 5% carbon dioxide in the air it can be toxic – suffocation will result if there’s an actor or technician in that environment.
The dry ice effect is created on stage by immersing pellets or blocks of dry ice into boiling water. This is usually achieved by a Pea-Souper device (see video below), named after the London fogs in Victorian times.
Material Safety Data Sheet
Video: Le Maitre Peasouper Dry Ice Machine