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12-year-old idol singer in hospital after inhaling helium on TV Asahi program

77 Comments

Officials at TV Asahi have apologized after a 12-year-old member of all-girl idol singing group 3B Junior fell into a coma after inhaling helium to alter her voice during a program.

Network officials told a press conference Wednesday that the incident occurred during recording of the program "3B Junior Stardust Shoji" on Jan 28. The girl fell unconscious after inhaling helium as part of a game.

She is believed to have suffered an air embolism, losing consciousness as a result of air bubbles blocking the flow of blood to the brain.

Medical personnel said Thursday the girl has regained consciousness and has limited movement but cannot yet speak clearly.

TV Asahi officials said other members of the idol group -- who are all under 18 -- had also inhaled helium gas to change their voices, and that the container of helium gas had a sticker on it, saying "For adult use only."

The network said safety precautions were inadequate and apologized to the stricken girl, her family and all others involved in the incident.

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77 Comments
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Inhaling helium from a balloon is usually harmless. But there have been reports in the past about the dangers of inhaling directly from a pressurized container. Did these girls inhale from a helium tank or from balloons?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Helium is not toxic and doesn't cause any harm by itself. Oxygen deprivation is the dangerous thing. One helium balloon will change your voice. Breathe some air before you try the next one and you're fine.

It seems the girl was especially sensitive to lack of air, but that's no excuse for the show producers. If the label said "adults only", then it's on them.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

It's time to put an end to these stupid TV programs as well as turning 12 year old children into 'celebrities'.

29 ( +34 / -5 )

But the main thing is now there is a 12 year old girl who may never again regain consciousness.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

I stopped watching Japanese TV over a decade ago because it was stupid, idiotic, noisy and childish. I see from this report it hasn't changed any. It's all fun and games until someone goes into a coma! Helium gas by itself is not toxic or dangerous, but that does not mean it is safe to inhale, as this poor little girl found out. It's also highly flammable. Using it in enclosed area with poor ventilation, like a TV studio, could also cause a major explosion. This is just a stupid and childish attempt at humour that resulted in someone getting badly injured. Oh, der!

3 ( +17 / -14 )

Wow, thT was some "game." Isn't it time to stop this kind of "entertainment?"

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Yet another story involving exploitation of minors in the entertainment industry. Shameful.

This has got to be grossly illegal under a slew of different laws — child labor laws and other worker-protection laws, substance abuse laws, contributing to illegal acts of a minor... I hope Asahi falls hard for this one.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

the container of helium gas had a sticker on it, saying “For adult use only.”

There. The management should be held accountable and get sued big time. Btw 12 year is way too young to enter the entertainment business, too many parents want their kids to be famous or the next akb, its sickening.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Helium is not flammable. It is an inert gas. But breathing it direct from a tank can freeze your lungs, and quickly cause oxygen deprivation. SO sad to hear this news!

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I thought Helium is sold regularly as party entertainment? I have seen the squeeky "Donald Duck" voice gag many times. Basically, it should be harmless. Maybe she inhaled multipe times? At some point, of course, that would be dangerous. Seems like negligence to me.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Usually harmless, but not in this case. Clearly labelled "for adults only". Can you say negligence? Hope this girl recovers, but bowing your head and saying your apologies doesn't really cut it. Moreover, "adult use only" means "adult use only". No ifs or buts. It reminds me of that well-known hospital down in Shinjuku that injured (or possibly killed) a number of young patients because a certain doctor thought "adult use only" didn't really mean "adult use only." And what if this young lass karks it ? She wouldn't be the first victim of the banality of Japanese TV, nor will she be the last.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

...and everyone is ok with this? The TV officials' apology is enough? The label was clearly marked "adult use only" and it is known Helium is a toxic substance.

I'm just baffled at the logic and even more so that it is entirely likely nothing at all will change...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I hope the parents sue the hell outta TV Asahi. This is unacceptable.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

@kaynide...actually its not. I know.... dont trust everything you read on internet im sure but here is the wikipedia extract

Helium is a chemical element with symbol He and atomic number 2. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table.

and here

Inhaling helium can be dangerous if done to excess, since helium is a simple asphyxiant and so displaces oxygen needed for normal respiration.[7][111] Fatalities have been recorded, including a youth who suffocated in Vancouver in 2003 and two adults who suffocated in South Florida in 2006.[112][113] In 1998, an Australian girl (her age is not known) from Victoria fell unconscious and temporarily turned blue after inhaling the entire contents of a party balloon.[114][115][116] Breathing pure helium continuously causes death by asphyxiation within minutes. This fact is utilized in the design of suicide bags.

Inhaling helium directly from pressurized cylinders is extremely dangerous, as the high flow rate can result in barotrauma, fatally rupturing lung tissue.[111][117]

Just not sure whether pressurized cylinders includes the spraycan as well or just really big tanks like the ones used for diving underwater.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Doesn't a 12 year old pop idol have a squeaky enough voice without helium ? Time to put an end to this puerile 'entertainment'

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Me too. Just like many other GAIJIN out there. I quit watching japanese tv long time ago. Its just way too wacky & this news report just illustrates my point.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Helium is not flammable? Are you serious? I dare you to fill a ballon with helium and light the ballon. You won't need another haircut for six months!

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

The Japanese press are reporting she had an air embolism, similar decompression syndrome (the bends) that divers get.

The Japanese press also said she was conscious and eating, but still not fully recovered.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Stupid and irresponsible!

But some people just do whatever it takes to become famous.

I feel sorry for the little girl and hope that at least the TV station learned a lesson from this!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Breathing any gas under pressure at ambient air pressure can be lethal including oxygen.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

An update on the girl's condition: her eyes are open, and she's able to eat, drink, and raise her hands. She is not yet able to speak but shows signs of wanting to do so. The specialist treating the girl cannot say whether she will suffer lasting impairment.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

bigfujiyamaFeb. 05, 2015 - 03:14PM JST

The Japanese press are reporting she had an air embolism, similar decompression syndrome (the bends) that divers get.

They also report the gas was mixture of 80% He and 20% O, and that the police is investigating the case for criminal charges. http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20150205k0000m040061000c.html

1 ( +1 / -0 )

That's absolutely terrible. Hopefully this will turn a lot of young girls away from the perverse concept of being an "idol". The only way I can see idols end in Japan is by cutting off the supply. Unfortunately I don't see the demand-side ebbing any time in the near future..

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Helium is not flammable? Are you serious? I dare you to fill a ballon with helium and light the ballon. You won't need another haircut for six months!

Nonsense. The balloon will "pop" just as it would if filled with air; helium is inert and does not burn or explode.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Disillusioned:

" Helium is not flammable? Are you serious? I dare you to fill a ballon with helium and light the ballon. You won't need another haircut for six months! "

No, Helium is not flammable. I don´t know where you learned chemistry, but your teacher should be fired. And I´d be to light a ballon that you fill with helium without worrying about my hair.... want to bet on it?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

On too many of these shows safety does tend to take backseat to trying to do something 'interesting'. In the same vein, the people on these shows are often encouraged to be 'interesting' even when it means serious risk to their personal safety.

It is time for these shows to take the safety and lives of their performers seriously.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Guess they don't teach you inhaling helium is dangerous, adults have nothing to do with it. I hope they sue to the TV station.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Basically breathing in pure helium can be risky because it displaces necessary oxygen. In other words, since bodies need oxygen, but are getting pure helium instead, the result is suffocation. One breath of pure helium can cause hypoxia and result in dizziness. Inhaling continuous breaths of helium one after another starves the body of oxygen and a person will eventually pass out.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The network said safety precautions were inadequate and apologized to the stricken girl,

Apologize??

Boy you'd better do a lot more than just apologize. This girl could have suffered serious brain damage or even died from a lack of oxygen, because of these stupid and idiotic slapstick "humor".

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Guess they don't teach you inhaling helium is dangerous, adults have nothing to do with it.

The danger of inhalation of helium specifically is completely different, easy to prevent and much milder, if you keep breathing helium instead of air you will run out of oxygen and lose consciousness (similar to keeping your breath for long time) as long as the person playing with the gas don't overdo it and breath normal air between helium inhalations it is relatively easy to avoid trouble.

In this case the most likely cause was an air embolism in the brain and that have nothing to do with the gas being helium, the problem would be the inhalation any kind of gas from a pressurized can or tank, you can have this complication even if the can contains simple air or oxygen. That could be avoided by inhaling from a balloon or using a plastic mask like those that are use to provide oxygen in hospitals or airplanes instead of directly from the tank.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's virtually impossible to sue someone in Japan, so even if something bad happens to the girl (and I hope it doesn't), I doubt TV Asahi would face any serious repercussions.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

onagagamoFeb. 05, 2015 - 04:54PM JST

It's virtually impossible to sue someone in Japan,

What are you talking about? According to court statistics, 1,524,018 civil law suits were filed in 2013 alone. http://www.courts.go.jp/app/files/toukei/503/007503.pdf

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Disillusioned - you're confusing helium (inert) with hydrogen (Hindenburg/ R101)

4 ( +5 / -1 )

It's virtually impossible to sue someone in Japan,

Wrong 100%...it's actually very easy, and anyone can do it too. It only costs about 1,500 to 2,000 for the filing fee. However having the case reach an actual court can take years, typically it will go through a moderating process first and both sides try to work out an agreement. However the longer it takes the more money it will consume in fees etc and the actual amount that may be awarded is rather small in comparison to the problem here.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Some people are confusing hydrogen and helium. Helium is inert.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I made a lot of asinine choices in my youth--inhaling helium, doing whip-its in the lock-in at the restaurant, and consuming copious amts. of other prohibited substances. But I was an adolescent. TV officials at a major studio making 12 yr. olds do such things--it boggles the mind.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

can take years

Hence why I used the word "virtually".

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Hence why I used the word "virtually"

Then it is virtually impossible to understand what you meant the first time.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

YubaruFeb. 05, 2015 - 05:10PM JST

However having the case reach an actual court can take years, typically it will go through a moderating process first and both sides try to work out an agreement.

According to the court statistics, of the 149,928 ordinary civil law suits filed at district court level (excluding those filed at summary court), 118,543 (79%) cases were settled within one year, with additional 23,343 (totaling 95%) cases settled within two years. http://www.courts.go.jp/app/files/toukei/322/007322.pdf

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

All readers back on topic. Nobody is being sued in this case yet.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Another stupid Japanese TV show gimmick, and this one causing an embolism that put a girl in a coma! They should be shut down, and this immaturity and sick humor stopped. It obviously endangers lives.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Helium is not flammable? Are you serious? I dare you to fill a ballon with helium and light the ballon. You won't need another haircut for six months!

This is enough to make one wonder how many of your ever-confident assertions are valid.

Stop and think for a few moments. Why did helium replace hydrogen in airships? Why indeed is it used in balloons?

7 ( +7 / -0 )

All the other non-adults who inhaled helium on this occasion should be tested for ill effects. Is the studio doing this?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

She most likely suffered irreversible brain damage due to air embolism. Some of you are treating this as if it's just a minor case like not being able to breathe or minor oxygen deprivation. Air embolisms can cause infarcts over a vast area of brain tissue. Her not being able to talk may mean that the frontal and temporal lobes may be affected.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"Medical personnel said Thursday the girl has regained consciousness and has limited movement but cannot yet speak clearly."

This is quite worrisome. I hope she fully recovers.

"The network said safety precautions were inadequate and apologized to the stricken girl, her family and all others involved in the incident."

The producers of this TV Asahi show should be severely punished.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Okay, let's get some perspective. A twelve-year-old child was made to induce helium gas for the sake of public entertainment. What next, bungee jumping?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

the difference here is Adults vs Children, a 12 year old does not have the lung capacity of an adult. SInce this occurred a week ago and the child just came out of the coma, has limited mobility and no speech you can safely assume she stroked out. she will need extensive rehab, will never sing again, will probably become a recluse - life has become much bleaker at 12 years old

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The producers of this TV Asahi show should be severely punished.

Probably won't even get fired

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Absolutely reckless and disgusting. These girls and so many others would do anything to be idols and to be on TV and they're taken advantage of by these despicable poopheads who could care less about them as people and just treat them as their posable dolls.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Yeap, put me down as another one who threw the TV out because I was bored stiff of the immature, stupid and coma-inducing programmes on offer here. And still I get a different NHK visitor every now and again.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

She most likely suffered irreversible brain damage due to air embolism. I'm a medical doctor and nearly all cases of air embolism in the brain have resulted in severe, debilitating disabilities, such as inability to walk, lack of touch/vibration sensation and lack of speech. It depends on which cerebral artery the embolus occluded, however in this case, it is most likely the anterior or middle cerebral arteries and/or branches of them. This would have resulted in a huge infarct over a vast area if thrombolytics weren't given (and most likely they weren't). Her frontal and/or temporal lobes are most likely irreversibly damaged.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

At minimum, it's child abuse, and someone needs to responsible for this!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The network said safety precautions were inadequate.

No, you think? It is bad enough that Japanese audiences are willing to watch adults act like children, but when a network thinks the audience wants to see this, things have really reached a new low.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Mirai -- Agreed.

And -- What is a 12-year old "IDOL" anyway??? The whole phrase disturbs me.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

apologized to the stricken girl, her family and all others involved in the incident.

Totally meaningless. A close relative of mine has a 13 year-old daughter who had a stroke slightly over 60 days ago. So I have seen first-hand the kind of change it has made on her life, and the entire family's. This poor girl, as others have pointed out, is in for at least two years of intensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy. And in the end may likely never get back to being close to the person she was before the accident. Her entire life has changed in an instant. Asahi should have been a stand-up company and immediately offered to pay this girl's full medical expenses -- for as long as it takes -- as well as guarantee her lifetime employment. Also, they should have immediately pulled the plug on the show, and fired all the producers involved in this horrible decison. But, as usual, a company that should be on the leading edge of displaying moral leadership in Japan has wussed out with a totally meaningless apology.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

AKB, NMB, etc-48 is bad enough. Now future 48-girl band members!? ENOUGH!!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Helium is NOT flammable. Japanese TV is really lame. I hope the girl recovers.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Both the tv and groups management should be facing criminal charges..

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"Helium gas by itself is not toxic or dangerous, but that does not mean it is safe to inhale, as this poor little girl found out. It's also highly flammable."

Helium is noble gas, which means it does not burn in any ordinary sense of the word. It takes the kind of energy found in the red giant phase of the Sun to get an exothermic reaction out of it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I can't imagine how anyone could entrust their 12 year old daughter to a group of narcissistic entertainment producers and talento. Why not leave her with the local yakuza?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

kaynideFeb. 05, 2015 - 02:34PM JST

...and everyone is ok with this? The TV officials' apology is enough?

Mirai HayashiFeb. 05, 2015 - 04:52PM JST

Apologize??

Boy you'd better do a lot more than just apologize

jerseyboyFeb. 06, 2015 - 08:14AM JST

apologized to the stricken girl, her family and all others involved in the incident.

Totally meaningless.

I am a bit puzzled by these comments. In any developed country, if you apologize and admit fault, you have to pay for the damages including lost future profits. That is the law in Japan, too. Is the law different in the country where you came from?

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

We used to do this with balloons as kids, but it was always discouraged and occasionally people overdoing it and having an accident were in the papers. But the other day I found a spray can marked Helium at a 100 yen store, it was decorated in a way that made it obvious it was meant for inhaling. It was a little surprising to me they encourage it here.

I'm not really a fan of litigation, but TV Asahi clearly owes someone a heavy amount of cash here.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I am a bit puzzled by these comments. In any developed country, if you apologize and admit fault, you have to pay for the damages including lost future profits. That is the law in Japan, too. Is the law different in the country where you came from?.

And I am puzzled by your comments. This child is in a hospital with possible life altering trauma to her brain, and for what? A few cheap uninspiring laughs? And you think that a simple, "I'm sorry" is adequate? At what point is she and her family entitled to more than just an "I'm sorry"? If she dies?

The television company and the producers of this ridiculously stupid show, should be held responsible for this situation otherwise it will happen again. It might not be inhaling helium (which sounds more and more ridiculous when I read it), but it might be something equally or even more dangerous.

Every time I read this story, all I can picture is a couple of middle aged producers, with really a warped sense of humor, and a severely warped sense of reality, giggling and snickering in the studio while these poor girls are subjected stupid circus stunts to please the very few riff raff who subscribe to this type of BS "entertainment"!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

In any developed country, if you apologize and admit fault, you have to pay for the damages including lost future profits.

As far as I know that's only an American thing.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I am a bit puzzled by these comments. In any developed country, if you apologize and admit fault, you have to pay for the damages including lost future profits. That is the law in Japan, too. Is the law different in the country where you came from?

CH3CHO -- nonsense. There is no such law in Japan. Numerous corporate heads offer their half-hearted apologies all the time in Japan, and never pay one yen in compensation. Apology is not an admission of guilt or liability in Japan. But, please enligten me on the law you claim exists.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Mirai HayashiFeb. 06, 2015 - 11:35AM JST

And you think that a simple, "I'm sorry" is adequate? At what point is she and her family entitled to more than just an "I'm sorry"? If she dies?

This is the puzzling part of your logic. Maybe, "I am sorry." sounds to your ears as "I am not going to do or pay any more." But let me tell you. If you say "I am sorry." and admit fault in this country, you have to face legal consequences.

The network said safety precautions were inadequate and apologized to the stricken girl, her family and all others involved in the incident.

The network said so with full understanding of its legal consequences. At the moment the network said "I am sorry." she is entitled to a lot more than just words.

StrangerlandFeb. 06, 2015 - 11:42AM JST

In any developed country, if you apologize and admit fault, you have to pay for the damages including lost future profits.

As far as I know that's only an American thing.

That means your knowledge is limited to America.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

As far as I know that's only an American thing.

I have seen it here - especially after car accidents. But it has been taken to a whole other level in the USA, where you can be sued at the drop of a hat. That's one of the sad results of rampant litigation - a sincere apology is seen as weakness.

Since a lawsuit, and possible criminal charges, may be involved here, I am not surprised that the people involved are keeping quiet. The apology will be part of the settlement.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

jerseyboyFeb. 06, 2015 - 01:13PM JST

CH3CHO -- nonsense. There is no such law in Japan. Numerous corporate heads offer their half-hearted apologies all the time in Japan, and never pay one yen in compensation.

They pay compensation all the time. Kanebo, Yukijirushi, Benesse, Japan McDonnalds, and so on.

Apology is not an admission of guilt or liability in Japan. But, please enligten me on the law you claim exists.

Let me quote what I said.

if you apologize and admit fault, you have to pay for the damages including lost future profits.

Let us look at what the network said.

The network said safety precautions were inadequate and apologized to the stricken girl, her family and all others involved in the incident.

The network apologized and admitted fault. By well established court practice in Japan, the network is legally liable. For reference, read this page by a professor at Kansai University. http://civilpro.law.kansai-u.ac.jp/kurita/procedure/lecture/trialFrame1.html

0 ( +2 / -2 )

In any developed country, if you apologize and admit fault, you have to pay for the damages including lost future profits.

Congratulations!!!

With that statement you win Sweeping Generalization of the Day!!!

Thanks for playing!!!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

What a stupid, asinine stunt to put a child up to for entertainment purposes. She and her family may need a lifetime of support both medical and emotional and I hope they get it somehow. Without their having to foot the bill.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Some people need to review their chemistry. I think helium was mistaken for hydrogen. Just one over on the periodic chart, but completely different properties. I suppose that we will read that neon and argon are also explosive?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

An air embolism is usually caused by rapid decompression or injection into the bloodstream from a hypodermic needle. It would seem that the gas was under some pressure and injected itself into the girls system when released from its container. Messing around with gas canisters with no regulator is plain daft. At the very least the TV company have been negligent. People often complain about health & safety practice but a 5 minute risk assessment by someone who knows what theyre doing would have avoided this problem. The police will find someone to hold to account for this. And the TV station will also be up for a fairly hefty compo bill.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The network apologized and admitted fault

CH3CHO -- they absoutely did not. They simply said that "safety precautions were inadequate". And, if you knew anything at all about TV production in Japan, you would know that is their way of shifting blame to the production company that supplied the show. Other than news programs, almost all TV shows are produced by outside companies, which the network, in this case Asahi, "purchases" for airing. So, I stand by my post -- Asahi has in fact run from responsibility, rather than accept it.

The network said so with full understanding of its legal consequences. At the moment the network said "I am sorry." she is entitled to a lot more than just words.

As I said, nonsense. But, again, please enlighten us on what inside information you have to know what Asahi's "full understanding of its legal consequences" were? Otherwise, please stop pretending you do.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

I hope she recovers and is better soon.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Runaway idol production

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To all those pedos and pervs that organized, produce and manipulate these young girls needs to take a good look at themselves and the effect it is having on these girls and the community in general It is just the somewhat beautifulcation of human traffic.Let kids be kids so that they will be able to handle adulthood and the issues that comes with it.You probably would be like I was when I first was informed of the true numbers of young girls being admitted for psychological issues. I hope this young girl will be ok and that more and more parents stop pimping their daughters out.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Adult women do the silly high pitched squeaky voice nauseatingly well so would a little kid need helium to do it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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