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article imageCall to ban helium balloons to save supplies

By Tim Sandle     Jul 1, 2016 in Odd News
Medical reserves of helium gas have reduced to such a low level that doctors are calling for a ban on using the gas in party balloons to preserve the supply.
Helium gas is known by most people as something pumped into balloons to keep them bobbing around. It also has an important medical use. Taking advantage of the very low boiling point, the gas is used in magnetic resonance imaging scanners in the hospital setting. The gas is also used by the nuclear power industry. Chemically helium is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas. It is also the second lightest element known.
The gas is not easy to find and it cannot be created artificially. Helium is found mostly by accident, being found when oil and gas is drilled for. It also needs to be captured at source, otherwise it simply dissipates into the atmosphere.
Recently fewer volumes of the gas are being found through such industrial endeavors, causing a global shortage. Due to the direct impact on the medical sector, and thus the potential risks to patient health, some doctors are calling for the gas to no longer be used with more frivolous activities like filling up balloons.
While a ban may be needed short term, a large helium find looks set to be revealed. As reported by The Independent, Oxford University researchers have discovered a large reservoir of the gas in Tanzania (at the East African Rift Valley.) This is based on a new detection method for the gas. This technology has been passed onto a Norwegian company called Helium One. The technology links helium gas supply to volcanic activity; so it stands that looking for certain rock formations and volcanic activity reveals helium deposits.
With the new discovery, WIRED Science (@WIREDScience) amusingly tweeted: "That dire helium shortage? Vastly inflated. Full of hot air. Kinda lightweight. Noble effort, though. (make us stop)."
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