Thursday, 19 September 2019

Is He Is Too Important For Your Party?

The "He" being the chemical symbol for the gas Helium, used to fill party balloons the world over. There is currently a global shortage of helium. In recent months, the price of helium has risen significantly - three times this year, each time going up between eight and ten percent.
That means that you will have to pay more for the balloon you give your grandchild, or take to the hen party, or tie to the hospital bed. The balloon companies complain that rising prices mean people are buying fewer balloons for decorating their party venues.
But my question is - should we be buying these balloons in the first place?
They are 'single use plastic'
They float away - and a high percentage do escape their owners clutches, either accidentally, or as part of a 'balloon race' - and then clog up the oceans and hedges and endanger or kill animals, birds and fishes
Those two reasons alone ought to be enough to make us stop and think 
But my question is - is this a reasonable use of a finite resource?
Helium is used for many other things - it is used in diving apparatus, it is used in rocket launches, it is used in the manufacture of computers, mobile phones, TV screens, in welding, in cryogenics, and for medical purposes.
Yes, Helium is used for a number of significant medical purposes
When I was taken ill in January, I had to have a brain scan. MRI scanners depend on helium, to keep their huge magnets cool. MRI scanners have revolutionised the diagnostic procedures in all branches of medicine.
Heliox is an oxygen/helium mixture which can be used to ventilate babies, children and adults with breathing difficulties. It is significant in the treatment of asthmatic patients.
So my question is - if the global supply of helium is limited, should we be pumping it into rainbow coloured plastic unicorn balloons - or ensuring that we keep more of it to help babies breathe, and to make faster diagnoses of cancer and other conditions? 
David Cole-Hamilton, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at the University of St Andrews, believes that given its importance in medicine, the use of helium for balloons should be banned. Given than the supply is limited, it is absurd that around 10% of this noble gas is used for party balloons. He says  "If you said to people 'Do you want a helium balloon, or an MRI scan for your daughter?' it's an obvious choice"
I am inclined to agree with him. 
What do you think?


  1. This is a actually something I have been thinking for a while. I find it an absurd use of both the materials that make the balloon and the Helium itself. Definitely a ban on the use of Helium is important, especially if it is running out. As you said, do you want a balloon or a lifesaving operation. I'm sorry if an industry feels it would ruin them but it is too important for that to matter so much.

  2. Replies
    1. All typos forgiven! (unless you omit the comma in "Let's eat, Geandma")

  3. Any helium balloons I've ever been given have turned into an absolute nuisance when the occasion has passed. What to do with them? You can't recycle them so once they've been deflated, into landfill they will surely go. I also am waiting on an MRI Scan so it's a given that my answer to the question would be 'no'! (ps my last reply on your last post sounded a bit mercenary about my employers but it wasn't meant to be. They've been very good to me in my employment - I just don't want to work so hard anymore! I'm supposed to be semi-retired after all!!. I've got myself a little job in my local wool shop, one day a fortnight(as well as my 'normal' job) and it suits me down to the ground, just wish I'd thought of it sooner!).

    1. Being a housekeeper like that is pretty demanding. And none of us have the energy in our 50s and 60s that we had in our twenties!

  4. I had never considered the fact that helium - or any of the other gases - is something we might "run out of" - I mean, it's always there, isn't it?! I suspect many other people think the same.
    Balloons, on the other hand, are something I've been thinking of recently. And how they are a danger to our wildlife. Even so-called bio degradable balloons can cause problems for wildlife before they bio degrade.

    1. Balloons just aren't ”green” are they? They were a very rare treat when we were children, now they are everywhere and causing so much damage...

  5. Just found you via Sue in Suffolk's blog. I'll pass on info about helium. Enjoyed scrolling back through older posts, refreshing read.

    1. Thank you Susan! Hope you find future posts interesting too (I love reading Sue in Suffolk )

  6. I don't like those helium filled balloons. They are an environmental hazard! But, I hadn't realized that we were running out of helium! I've said this many times, but, I always learn something new from you!

  7. I know everyone is right - about single use plastic & helium - but I admit to loving balloons - especially a room filled with them for a special event. Guess that will be another thing of the past very soon.

  8. My husband belongs to a walking group who hike for about 10 miles in the countryside every Thursday. Every week he picks up at least one deflated helium balloon that is caught on fences or branches. I agree they should be banned for frivolous purposes.


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