No More Balloons?

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I remember back in October that my Homecoming Director told us that there weren't going to be balloons at certain events because there was a helium shortage. The first thing that came into my mind was "What? How is that possible? According tot looking for news articles online, this has been happening since May and is still continuing today.  According to federal officials this shortage is now being considered a "crisis". Why is this such a big deal? There are many more uses that helium is useful for rather than just filling balloons that include the military, medical, and technological industry! Here are a list of other uses helium use encompasses according to the Bureau of Land Management:

Not just for filling balloons

Here's some helium uses you might not expect:

• Popular as a gas shield for arc welding

• Helps in guidance corrections for air-to-air missiles

• Protects growing silicon and germanium crystals

• Is a cooling medium for nuclear reactors

• Combines with oxygen to create an artificial atmosphere for divers

• Used in cryogenics

• Preserves rare documents, such as the Declaration of Independence

• Part of supersonic wind tunnels

• Is a pressurizing agent for liquid fuel rockets

• Found in neon lasers

• Fills Border Patrol's AEROSTAT blimps

According to the Federal Helium Reserve, the shortage is due to a few factors of the environment such as last winter's warm weather and varying to  plant-maintenance issues in Algeria to a wildfire in Wyoming. Little did we know how such small changes in our environment could almost deplete the worlds second most abundant element!

If there is no more helium? What happens? Well scientists and analysts believe that the biggest impact will take place in scientific research and the healthcare field (MRI machines where helium keeps the magnet cool), With prices suddenly sky rocketing there's a plan of a two year price spike and is restricting helium since medical suppliers need it  to keep running the MRI machines. 


"But John Lee, the association's chairman insisted that the helium its members put into balloons, was not depriving the medical profession of the gas. "The helium we use is not pure," he said. "It's recycled from the gas which is used in the medical industry, and mixed with air. We call it balloon gas rather than helium for that reason."

In reaction to the shortage the government is taking these initiatives.

1 Comment

This is a really interesting problem that I feel like nobody knows about. I never knew that helium had so many interesting and important uses, and it makes sense that the balloon industry would be the first to go. I was looking around on the internet for some discussion on the helium shortage, and I found this which discusses the affects on weather balloons. Apparently, many weather balloons such as the one from the National Weather Service use helium in their balloons, however some are trying to make the switch to hydrogen and GH2. It will be interesting to see how this "crisis" plays out in the future, and if it will have any ramifications on our everyday lives.

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