Gut Check: Making simple sense out of life
By Lenore Skomal Erie Times-News staff blogger
Lenore Skomal is an award-winning author and veteran journalist in all forms of media. She is a weekly columnist and daily blogger for the Erie Times-News. She’s authored 17 published books, including an anthology of her columns, Burnt Toast available on her website www.lenoreskomal.net.   Read more about this blog.
Posted: December 11th, 2012
Should there be a ban on helium balloons?

One British scientist thinks so. And so might you after you read this.

According to the UK newspaper, The Telegraph, Dr. Peter Wothers, a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and a University of Cambridge chemist, claims that wasting such a precious, nonrenewable resource will create massive problems in less than 50 years, and definitely a shortage of the gas.

Helium, a noble gas, is a lighter-than-air gas that is extracted from the earth’s crust and cannot be synthesized. About 75 percent of it comes from the United States, and Wothers points out what most people don’t know is that its uses far surpass filling balloons. According to Wikipedia,

“Helium is used in cryogenics (its largest single use, absorbing about a quarter of production), particularly in the cooling of superconducting magnets, with the main commercial application being in MRI scanners.”

It’s also mixed with oxygen to make breathing easier for patients and can help save newborns lives.

Using it for nonessential frippery such as balloons will mean a severe shortage in the gas in a few decades.

He warns: “The scarcity of helium is a really serious issue. I can imagine that in 50 years time our children will be saying ‘I can’t believe they used such a precious material to fill balloons’.”

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