DID YOU KNOW? The one reason you shouldn’t buy helium-filled balloons ever again:

The Earth is running out of helium! That’s right: helium cannot be synthesized in a lab, and it’s a nonrenewable gas, so we get all of our supplies by separating it from the natural gas found by drilling underground. Once that helium is pumped into a balloon, we all know that it slowly deflates and loses that helium. What I didn’t know (and I’ll bet you didn’t either) is that once it leaks out into the atmosphere, it cannot be recovered. There is currently no viable method of extracting helium from the mix of other gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.

But what else can you do with helium besides fill balloons and make yourself sound funny after inhaling it? A lot of important things, actually! It’s a very stable, odorless, colorless gas that will not burn or react with other elements, so it has many applications in the medical field. Helium is used in its liquid form to cool the magnets in hospital MRI machines and cryogenically preserve tissue samples, and is also mixed with oxygen in tanks to make it easier for the elderly to breathe in and process (a mixture of helium and oxygen requires less pressure to reach the lungs than pure oxygen). It helped with NASA’s shuttle launch by cooling and purging the cavity between the cold fuel and the hot gas created by burning the fuel.

The U.S has the highest production rate of helium in the world, probably because we have high rates of natural gas extraction. About 75% of the world’s helium supply comes from the U.S.Unfortunately, neither of these resources are indefinite, and experts believe that helium reserves will run out completely in 30 to 50 years. As of now, there is no substitute that can be used in all of these applications, and no way of synthesizing helium artificially. So, what can you do about it? STOP BUYING HELIUM BALLOONS! There are so many other ways of decorating that don’t use up this valuable resource. Or, if you absolutely have to have balloons, fill them with regular air and let guests kick them around on the floor, or just use one or two in strategic spots rather than bunches and bunches of them.

SOURCES:

Photo: http://www.prodpromo.net/standard-10inch-balloons-p3835.htm

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9732883/Ban-helium-balloons-this-Christmas-academic-warns.html

http://suite101.com/article/medical-uses-of-helium-a188726

http://www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/prog/energy/helium/helium_facts.html

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One response to “DID YOU KNOW? The one reason you shouldn’t buy helium-filled balloons ever again:”

  1. Lee Westwoman says :

    If you put mostly air and “a little” helium into a balloon it woudl still be lighter than air, right? Would it still float “just enough”, and be less likely to get away to eventually choke ocean dwellers, while decreasing the depletion of a finite resource for a non-essential purpose? A little bit of fun is not a bad thing? Before I start worrying about this though, I understand that helium is finite, but how much is there compared to how much we waste?

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