08/10/2012 10:36 BST

What Are The Dangers Of Drinking Liquid Nitrogen?

Teenager Gaby Scanlon has had her stomach removed after drinking a cocktail containing liquid nitrogen in a Lancaster bar.

But just what is it and what can it do to your body?

According to Professor Peter Barham, of the University of Bristol’s School of Physics, severe burning is one of the most likely injuries.

He said: “Liquid nitrogen is the harmless gas nitrogen which has been cooled to such a low temperature that it becomes a liquid.

“It is intensely cold (-196C) and if not used properly can cause frostbite or cryogenic burns.

“If liquid nitrogen is added to a liquid such as an ice cream mixture, it cools the liquid rapidly while it boils away and produces a cloud of vapour.”

Professor Barham stressed that it is possible to use liquid nitrogen safely, but it must never be drunk.


After Teenager Gaby Scanlon Had Stomach Removed From Liquid Nitrogen Drink: More Extreme Beverages

He added: “As with any very hot or very cold liquid proper safety measures must be taken – just as no-one would drink boiling water or oil or pour it over themselves, so no-one should ingest liquid nitrogen.

“Liquid nitrogen can be used safely in the preparation of foods. However, since it is not safe to ingest liquid nitrogen due care must be taken to ensure that the liquid has all evaporated before serving any food or drink that was prepared with liquid nitrogen.

“Nitrogen is not toxic. Liquid nitrogen by being so cold can cause severe cryogenic burns (or frostbite) but once the liquid evaporates back to nitrogen gas it is more or less harmless.”

It turns out that the chairman of Lancaster City Council’s Licensing Act Committee, Paul Aitchison, has actually tried the same cocktail that landed Ms Scanlon in hospital.

He said: “I heard about this story this morning and I was quite shocked because I have actually tried it myself. It was quite scary to think that it could have possibly happened to me.

“I thought it sounded interesting, that’s probably one of the draws. You assume the drinks served in licensed premises will be safe.

“I didn’t have an adverse reaction to it. Unfortunately Gaby has and my heart goes out to her and I hope that she gets better.”

Ms Scanlon’s stomach-removal operation is one of the rarer procedures and carries several unpleasant side-effects.

According to the NHS website patients can suffer severe diarrhoea, vomiting, a drop in blood pressure, weight loss, brittle bones and increased vulnerability to infection.

A full stomach involves have a tube connecting the oesophagus directly to your bowel.