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MNN.com - KATY RANK LEV - June 3, 2019, 1:32 p.m.

Birthday parties and grand opening celebrations are often celebrated with helium-filled balloons bobbing in the breeze, but scientists say it’s time we abandoned this wasteful practice. We are currently experiencing the third shortage in 14 years, and much more critical uses of this gas are at risk.

The colorless, odorless, tasteless, nontoxic gas is primarily used to cool things, with its biggest commercial use being MRI scanners. Other critical uses of the gas include cooling infrared detectors and nuclear reactors, machinery for wind tunnels, operation of satellite equipment, and to pressurize fuel tanks for space travel.

But the supply of helium is likely to get even more unpredictable soon because there are too few sources of the gas here on Earth, according to Smithsonian magazine. Ironically, helium is the second most abundant element in the universe, the majority of it created during the Big Bang. But here on Earth, it’s rare, with much of it transformed at refineries in the United States and Qatar. Read more…