May 13, 2019

Helium shortage bad for parties and hospital patients

WHAT: There’s a global shortage of helium, and event planners aren’t happy about it. But the party industry isn’t the only one affected.

From hospitals to science labs, many rely on the element for daily tasks. Helium plays a vital role in cooling MRI magnets, and it’s needed in much of the research instrumentation used by chemists.

Nearly 75% of the world’s helium supply is produced in the U.S. At current rates, it is projected that reserves of the element could run out in as few as five years.

EXPERT: George Bodner, Purdue University’s Arthur Kelly Distinguished Professor of Chemical Education in the College of Science, has taught courses in biochemistry and general, organic and inorganic chemistry. He now focuses on chemical education, finding ways to better convey chemical concepts to students.  

QUOTE: “The most significant impact of a serious shortage would be the inability of hospitals to keep MRIs running, or in limiting patients’ access to the imaging technique,” Bodner said. “To understand the impact this would have, you’d need to think back about 40 years, to a time when surgeons had to do exploratory surgery for diagnoses they can get in 30 minutes with MRI images, which are neither dangerous nor invasive.”

Writer: Kayla Zacharias, 765-494-9318, kzachar@purdue.edu

Media contact: Amy Patterson-Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: George Bodner, 765-494-5313, gmbodner@purdue.edu

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