What Not to Bring to Your Summer Pool Party: Liquid Nitrogen

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 20 2013 10:00 AM

What Not to Bring to Your Summer Pool Party: Liquid Nitrogen

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People enjoy a pool day despite the glaring absence of liquid nitrogen

Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for GUESS

From the department of I’m glad I stayed home: A party in Leon, Mexico, got slightly less fun when its organizers, from the German spirit company Jägermeister, decided to pour four cans of liquid nitrogen into the pool. The nitrogen billowed up in a toxic cloud that engulfed approximately 30 swimmers.* Eight of them fainted or fell ill after inhaling the gas and had to be rescued. One man, 21-year-old Jose Ignacio Lopez del Toro, lapsed into a coma and was conveyed to an intensive care unit in central Mexico.

The lawsuits don’t seem far behind. “Public prosecutors were said to be investigating the organizers of the party, which have so far not been identified,” reports the New York Daily News, adding that four of the victims have already filed a complaint with the state’s attorney general. Furthermore, Mayor Barbara Botello came out in favor of “reforms to regulate pool parties,” presumably so that it would soon become illegal to dump canisters of potentially noxious chemicals into their midst. (To be fair, liquid nitrogen on its own is not toxic. Neither is Jägermeister, but only technically speaking.) Across the ocean, Jägermeister substituted geographical specificity for true contrition: “We are aware of this incident in Leon, Mexico, which is currently being investigated by our headquarters here in Germany,” a spokesperson told the Mirror. “We fully support responsible drinking,” he added, which seems irrelevant until you consider that the decision to uncork the nitrogen may have been a product of irresponsible drinking, or at least that drinking Jägermeister while enshrouded in a terrifying miasma of death does not scream “safety first!”

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Anyway, here are a few other things that might seem fun to do at your party, but actually are pretty bad ideas.

  • Releasing a bag of fire ants into the moon-bounce
  • Pointing your Slip ‘N Slide toward a busy intersection
  • Playing a game called “Guess What I’m Allergic to”
  • Feeding barbecue to a black bear

Also, it is unadvisable to drink liquid nitrogen cocktails, which (coincidentally?) often contain Jägermeister liquor. In October 2012, downing two of those concoctions reportedly caused a Lancashire teenager to lose her stomach.

*Correction, June 21, 2013: This blog post originally stated that the nitrogen reacted with chlorine in the swimming pool, creating a toxic cloud. In fact, the nitrogen did not react to the chlorine. It evaporated and displaced the air, causing party goers to choke. 

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Katy Waldman is a Slate staff writer.