Helium shortage could impact the medical industry

Usage of helium has increased worldwide with the medical field being the number one users of the gas.

Posted: Dec 7, 2018 6:47 PM

We're learning how a helium shortage could impact the medical industry. Right now the gas is hard to find for a number of reasons. We wanted to find out why, and how it could impact your next doctor's visit.

"I don't think there's a fear the world's going to lose its helium, there's a lot of it. It's just a matter of producing it and being able to distribute it," said Tommy Harris.

Tommy Harris owns an MRI center in Huntsville. He said helium shortages happen every so often. Harris said usage has increased worldwide with the medical field being the number one users of the gas. His MRI center uses it everyday.

"It's necessary to maintain the magnetic field of the MRI's so periodically they have to add helium to the MRI system."

Harris said that's contributing to the growing demand for helium and is likely trickling down to other businesses, like ones that sell balloons. Another cause is a Middle East embargo although Harris said most of the helium we use is produced in the United States. Harris said for now, patients won't have to worry about medical offices going into shortage because they're given priority.

"Obviously the need for medical and research and other uses take priority over birthday balloons."

Harris said he read the cost of helium has increased 250% which could also be why other businesses are having trouble keeping it in stock. We're told five years ago, it cost $25 to fill up a tank of helium. Right now, it can be up to $300. 

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