Ban on helium-filled balloons proposed in U.K.

Helium-filled party balloons could become a relic of celebrations past, if one British anesthetist has his way.

Dr. Tom Dolphin from the British Medical Association's Junior Doctors Committee is calling for a ban on using helium in balloons to help preserve the gas for MRI scanners. Opponents to the use of helium for balloons say it is a waste of the element and should be stopped.

For example, Dr. Ray Dolan, director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, said the center had to stop taking bookings for its scanner in 2012 because of helium shortages. Since then, the center has had to invest in expensive helium-capture technology to recover some of what is burned off.

MR Solutions CEO David Taylor, PhD, predicted that within five years all new MRI scanners will do away with the liquid helium jacket designed to keep the system's magnet cool enough for operation. MR Solutions is developing a 7-tesla helium-free MRI scanner.

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