Telegraph does not take the ballooning helium shortage lightly, and neither does Cambridge chemist Dr. Peter Wothers:
Helium is a non-renewable gas that is used to cool magnets in MRI scanners in hospitals. It is also mixed with oxygen to make breathing easier for ill patients and can help save new-born babies’ lives.
However, there is currently a global shortage of the gas, which cannot be synthesized. The gas has to be extracted from beneath the earth’s crust and 75 per cent of the world’s helium comes from the US.
Dr Wothers will warn: “The scarcity of helium is a really serious issue. I can imagine that in 50 years time our children will be saying ‘I can’t believe they used such a precious material to fill balloons’.”
Dr Wothers will argue in the lectures that there is currently no sustainable way of making helium artificially and once it is released in the atmosphere, it is gone forever.
He “will” say these things because he’s planning out his speeches for a Christmas party – the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. Which hopefully won’t be using balloons as decorations.