Business, Economics and Jobs

Helium shortage threatens Turkey Day parades


A balloonist fires his burners as he prepares to take-off at the dawn mass ascent at the 31st Bristol International Balloon Fiesta on August 7, 2009 in Bristol, England. Perfect flying conditions allowed over 100 balloons, of all shapes and sizes, to fly this morning at what has become Europe's largest hot air balloon festival.


Matt Cardy

Are you prepared to live in a world where you can't spend hours staring at a procession of really big balloons? A worldwide helium shortage is threatening to ruin Houston's annual Thanksgiving Day parade, the Houston Chronicle reported. Like other Turkey Day parades nationwide, the event consists of lots of oversized balloons. 

"We've secured helium to meet some of our parade needs, and we are working to secure more," Kim Stoilis, president and chief executive officer of the Houston Festival Foundation, told the Chronicle. 

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But perhaps a better perspective to take would be that Turkey Day parades are threatening to ruin the world's helium supply. Helium is also used for important functions like cooling MRI scanners, which accounts for 20 percent of the world's helium usage, according to Block Imaging International

As Slate explains, our helium problems can be traced back to a 1996 United States law that puts the price of helium at an artificially low amount. Some experts predict that the world may run out of helium within the next 40 years.The disturbing figures have lead Slate to argue that perhaps making balloons the focal point of Thanksgiving Day parades nationwide is not the brightest idea.