Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Noble gases

Every day 20,000 people visit the HealthWiki for lifesaving health information. If everyone gave just $5 we could translate 50 more chapters.

Make a giftMake a gift to support this essential health information people depend on.


HealthWiki > Workers' Guide to Health and Safety > APPENDIX B: Common chemicals and materials > Noble gases


Noble gases are very stable chemicals that do not react easily with other chemicals and are not flammable. Many noble gases are normally found in the air. This means you breathe in small amounts of noble gases every day.

Noble gases are used in electronics. They are used in light bulbs for computer screens, televisions, and projectors. They are mixed with halogens (chlorine and fluorine) to make ultraviolet lasers that are used to make integrated circuits. The gases come in either compressed gas or liquid and gas form. You might work with noble gases in gas form, but a leak from a container can be liquid or gas.

These gases are not very toxic but they can be harmful in large amounts. Noble gases are asphyxiants. Asphyxiant gases replace oxygen in the air so there is less of it to breathe. Without oxygen you can die. Before entering a room with large amounts of noble gas, make sure that there is enough oxygen in the room or have a respirator mask with its own air supply.

The charts include only some of the noble gases that exist. See Learn about chemicals used in your factory and how to find information about other noble gases. See the Index of chemical names to find alternative names for noble gases.

Prevent or reduce exposure:

  • Use ventilation systems that extract fumes and replace or dilute dirty air with clean air (see Chapter 17: Ventilation).
  • Wear gloves. Wear correct respirators that fit you. All protective clothing should be clean, available each day, put on before work, and never taken home with you (see Chapter 18: Personal protective equipment).
  • Have an emergency plan that includes first aid treatment and protective equipment for spills, splashes, and accidental exposures. Keep necessary emergency supplies at the work site well stocked and accessible to workers.
  • Work areas where noble gases are used, stored, and mixed need to be controlled for heat and monitored for concentration of fumes and vapors.
Noble gases


Krypton (Kr) CAS No. 7439-90-9




immediate death


Neon (Ne) CAS No. 7440-01-9




immediate death


Xenon (Xe) CAS No. 7440-63-3




immediate death

WHAT ARE THEY?
Noble gases are colorless gases that have no smell or taste. However, all noble gases (with the exception of radon) produce a bright colorful light when electric current is passed through a gas-filled space such as a tube. They are used to create light.
DO YOU WORK WITH THEM?
Noble gases are used to fill lamp bulbs in projectors and tubes in the electronics industry. They help light up electronic screens such as plasma televisions and plasma computer monitors. A gas mixture is placed between two glass sheets, one of which is the front screen. When the device is turned on, electricity passes through, interacts with the gas, and creates a visible picture on the screen. Noble gases are also found in ultraviolet lasers that are used to make circuit boards.
WHEN THEY COME IN CONTACT WITH YOUR BODY
SKIN

They may cause discomfort to your skin. In gas form they are not toxic to the skin, but if a liquid form touches you, it will burn quickly, but the skin will feel cold and numb. Treat it quickly as a chemical burn. See First Aid.

EYES

They may cause discomfort to your eyes. In gas form, they are not toxic to the eyes, but a liquid form can cause severe eye burns. See First Aid.

NOSE/LUNGS

The fumes can cause dizziness, headache, weakness, confusion, and suffocation. Noble gases take the place of oxygen in the room. Without enough oxygen, you can lose consciousness and die very quickly. Make sure there is enough oxygen before entering a room with noble gases present. See First Aid.

MOUTH/BELLY
This is not a common way of coming into contact with noble gases.
WHEN YOU ARE EXPOSED OVER TIME:
Noble gases are not known to have dangerous long-term health effects.
IF YOU ARE AT RISK OF EXPOSURE:

Use cold-insulating gloves, an apron, and eye/face protection when handling cylinders in which gases are stored (see Chapter 18: Personal protective equipment).

Use a supplied-air respirator.



In other languages