In the early 1980’s, there were 12 Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines in use. Today, there are approximately 25,000 around the globe. One item in common is their use of Helium. Helium is most often associated with party balloons and funny voices, but 20% of the world supply of helium gas is used in MRI equipment. Liquid helium is extremely cold (-450° F), which is necessary to cool the magnets and get optimum performance.
One problem with using helium is it displaces oxygen. Without oxygen employees and lab technicians can get hurt or even die from asphyxiation. Look no further than the relatively recent death of a young party-goer who inhaled the gas to make her voice squeaky. A safety solution which gets paired with every MRI is a oxygen deficiency monitor. A oxygen monitor samples the air to ensure a safe environment. Below is a Air Products statement:
Helium is a nontoxic, odorless, colorless, nonflammable gas stored in cylinders at high pressure. It can cause rapid suffocation when concentrations are sufficient to reduce oxygen levels below 19.5%. It is lighter than air and may collect in high points or along ceilings. Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) may be required by rescue workers