They make memories and are the inspiration for songs. Any child will tell you that balloons are the staple at a good birthday party. But shortages in helium recently may put an end to all our fun.
Helium has long been used to float party favours, but it also is used in many jobs that are more important to human welfare. As a recent article in Nature points out, MRIs use helium, and researchers need helium to help with cryogenics. Without the gas, many tests done in hospitals and in research labs would be harder or impossible to complete. Therefore, the recent shortage has not only partygoers worried, but also scientists.
The best way to obtain helium is through natural gas. Unfortunately, many companies do not see the usefulness of the substance and instead vent it out into the atmosphere. This results in huge wastes of helium.
Nuttall et al. propose a global agency, which would be responsible for monitoring helium wastage, as well as building a sustainable market for the gas. This would ensure that helium is never completely depleted, allowing MRIs and research labs to continue their lifesaving work.
I applaud Nuttall et al. for their article (to read it all, click here). In the world we live in today, more and more worldwide solutions are necessary to ensure that commodities are not used up entirely. While helium may not seem like an incredibly important gas to most people, its uses are invaluable to some and the gas would be sorely missed if it were to disappear. If the committee works, as well, I believe it would be a great starting point for establishing functional multinational committees regarding sustainable soluations to other aspects of the environment.