There are few stranger fates for a healthy fitness advocate than this.
French fitness blogger Rebecca Burger died June 18 after a whipped cream dispenser exploded and struck her chest.
According to the BBC, Burger died of cardiac arrest following the freak accident, which her family has said was caused by a faulty dispenser.
The device was not the kind of canister in which pre-whipped cream is typically packaged and sold in the United States. Instead, the dispenser — sometimes also called a charger — is designed so that users can pour regular whipping cream into it, and then get freshly whipped cream out.
Burger’s family shared a photo of the device, along with a warning about it, on Instagram.
Dispensers like this typically require “charger” cartridges, or capsules, that are filled with a tasteless gas called nitrous oxide. Each cartridge is usually about the size of a thumb and weighs about 25 grams (8 grams of which is the pressurized nitrous oxide).
The charger attaches to the dispenser, which punctures it, releasing the pressurized gas into the tightly sealed container. By the laws of physics, gas particles want to spread out, so they naturally flow out of the opening in the cartridge and disperse throughout the container. The gas gets mixed into the cream in the form of tiny bubbles, and when the cream is dispensed from the container, those bubbles have even more room to expand. That gives the cream a whipped, airy consistency.
It’s why a whipped cream dispenser can whip cream so much faster than a person could by hand.
In Burger’s case, however, the dispenser seems to have malfunctioned and exploded, sending one of these cartridges into her thorax, or chest (according to the description posted by her family).
Pressurizing an air-tight container can turn it into a rocket, since the condensed gas inside will rapidly spill out of any available opening.
A prime example of this the soda bottle-rocket experiment. By filling up a soda bottle with a little water, sealing it, and pumping it full of air, the bottle turns into a high-flying rocket the moment that pressure is relieved. ..,
“It’s essentially a tiny high pressure water bottle rocket,” Allain told Business Insider.
An even more dangerous scenario might be one where the cartridge somehow detaches from the dispenser.
“A cartridge by itself would go even faster,” Allain said. “It’s basically a gas rocket bullet.”
Allain couldn’t say exactly how fast a cartridge might fly, but guessed it could be more than 30 mph. This type of hit would cause a severe injury, but it would only cause cardiac arrest in very rare cases.
John Greenwood, an assistant professor at the the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, told Business Insider that the forceful, direct impact of an object can cause the heart to stop if it hits a person’s chest at a specific time in their heartbeat cycle.
The heart’s electrical conduction system has distinct phases, the last of which is called ventricular depolarization. This is essentially the point at which the system resets and returns (very briefly) to its resting state in order to start the next heartbeat cycle. If the chest is hit at the exact time that the heart is in this depolarization phase — which typically only lasts for .1 to .2 milliseconds — Greenwood says that can stop the beat and cause cardiac arrest. …
Burger’s family has also urged people not to use whipped cream dispensers, claiming that “thousands of defective devices … are still in circulation.” According to the BBC, a French consumer group has issued warnings in the past about faulty connectors on the gas capsules in these devices. The AP also reported that the product has been off the market since 2013, and that its manufacturer, Ard’time, said efforts had been asked to alert consumers about the problem.
Rebecca was a beloved Internet star, boasting more than 160,000 followers on Instagram. She loved sharing workout and fitness photos with her fans, and also posted a lot about travel, food and lifestyle. According to her Instagram profile, she had upcoming trips planned to Barcelona, Austria, Dubai and Zanzibar, and she worked for the fitness company Women’s Best.
Rest in peace, Rebecca. Thank you for inspiring people to get healthy.