Hydrogen balloons meant for children - beware!!!!

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Hydrogen balloons meant for children - beware!!!!

I am a typical expat – have been living in Ho Chi Minh City for just under 12 years; I am originally from the US; married to a wonderful Vietnamese women ; with three beautiful children (6, 3, and 1). I work fairly long hours with a multinational firm; language and cultural differences can be frustrating; air quality could definitely improve; traffic seems to be getting worse; but I wouldn’t change a thing! Saturdays and Sundays are devoted to my children as that is the only time I can spend quality time with them. I am very particular on where we go – to stay out of the hot sun; stay away from obscenely crowded places; and I am not afraid to pay a little bit extra to ensure the safety of my children. That is my life of as an expat living in Ho Chi Minh City – until recently.

On 21st of January 2017 – I attended the 1st birthday party of my friend’s daughter at a new 5 star hotel in District 3. It was a beautiful party –plenty of decorations for the children. I brought along my 3 and 6 year old daughters. We had a great time. After the birthday party – we were ready to leave the hotel. My 3 year old daughter grabbed about 8 balloons that were inflated (meaning they were floating on the ceiling of the birthday party) to take home. We shared a ride home with a friend and his family in a seven seat car. About 200 meters outside the hotel (Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and Hai Ba Trung) my friend was trying to light a cigarette in the front seat – me and my daughters were sitting in the middle seat with my friends family seated in the back seat, and second later, I saw a big bright flash. My arm started to burn and my kids were screaming. The balloons had literally exploded – all of them – with my 6 year old getting burned on her leg, I was burned on my left arm, and my 3 year old daughter was burned on her face and both arms and hands. They were ignited when the balloons came into contact with my friend trying to light his cigarette. It was devastating. We immediately went to a medical clinic that was just a block away. My 3 year daughter had second degree burns to her face and arms/hands. I and my 6 year old daughter had 1st degree burns (leg and arm). We had to take my 3 year old daughter to Singapore where she was hospitalized for 8 days – with four different operating procedures done to her face, hands, and arms.

How did this happen? Why was it happening to me? How can children be allowed to walk around with bombs in their hands? I felt so bad for my daughters. It turns out that the balloons that we grabbed from the birthday party at the 5 star hotel were filled with HYDROGEN (or hydro). This was confirmed by my friend’s party planner. Before the party – the party planner had asked if she could bring the balloons into the hotel – with the hotel saying yes. The hotel did not check what gas was used in the balloons. Let me just tell you that you can be as careful as you want to – but this could happen to you! It happened to me!

The truth is – a significant number of the balloons are filled with hydro rather than helium as helium is more expensive in Vietnam, but not combustible like hydrogen balloon. If you do a quick topic search on google of “hydrogen balloon – Vietnam”, you will find a number of horror stories of people getting burned from hydrogen balloons that spontaneously/accidently blew up, hurting 10-40 people in their wake. Currently – the law is silent against using hydro in balloons with the intention of having them around children. The party planner at my friend’s party told me that everyone uses hydro –from the balloon vendor selling to children in front of schools to weddings and birthday parties. Some hotels and larger venues ask what type of gas are in the balloons before letting them into their location – but not all of them. So be careful.

I wish to share this as a positive message to everyone so that this doesn’t have to happen to you and your children. Until there is a law that is passed specifically prohibiting the use of hydrogen is balloon meant for children, be careful as you can’t always rely on the stars of the hotel.

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