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Worldwide Shortage of Barium

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the out-of-our-element dept.

China 270

New submitter redhat_redneck writes "The U.S. and Canada has been experiencing a shortage of barium sulfate, which is used as contrast for upper and lower GI studies. It has reached the point where doctors are being asked not to order these exams except in emergencies, and some exams are being cancelled. Here's the letter that's been put out by the manufacturer. The longer this drags on, the more serious this issue becomes, eventually impacting patients and healthcare providers in both cost and quality of care. Some sources point to a dramatic drop in Chinese production. In their defense, it seems China is changing safety regulations. Medical use only make a fraction of the uses of barium sulfate, but it's going to be disproportionately affected by this shortage. We can't go back to our old contrast Thorotrast; it causes cancer. Does anyone know of alternatives to barium?"

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Use it less for weather manipulation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529471)

Should be used less for weather manipulation and more in health sector. :-/

I read that as “Worldwide shortage of Belgiu (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529483)

As long as the waffle reserve is safe...

What the what what? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529499)

which is used as contrast for upper and lower GI studies

What the hell are these studies and why is it assumed Slashdot readers would know what they are? What's a "contrast" in this context?

Is the submitter seriously asking us to suggest alternatives to barium? Worst submission ever. It could have explained what this bullshit means, and why China needed to improve safety?

Re:What the what what? (5, Informative)

aliquis (678370) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529613)

Of course Slashdot readers are supposed to get it.

Contrast is what it says. It's there to make whatever you want investigate stand out from the rest observe it. For instance to make blood vessels easier to see. (Now I don't know whatever this is x-ray, MR, ultra-sound or whatever.) My english isn't good enough to know what GI is (gut-ingestion?) but I guess it's the stuff from the throat to the ass.

Re:What the what what? (5, Informative)

ByteSlicer (735276) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529735)

what GI is (gut-ingestion?) but I guess it's the stuff from the throat to the ass.

Gastrointestinal, your guess is correct: mouth-esophagus-stomach-intestines-anus. It's basically one continuous external surface inside the body.

Re:What the what what? (2)

SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530611)

It's basically one continuous external surface inside the body.

You make us sound like living, breathing Klein Bottles...

Re:What the what what? (5, Funny)

samkass (174571) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530703)

It's basically one continuous external surface inside the body.

You make us sound like living, breathing Klein Bottles...

Not a Klein bottle... We're basically just a living, breathing donut.

Re:What the what what? (5, Informative)

level_headed_midwest (888889) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530133)

Layman's explanation: Contrast agent is something that shows up as a bright color on your scan. There are many different kinds of contrast used for many different purposes, too many to list here. Barium contrast is swallowed and shows up as bright white on regular X-rays and CT scans (CTs are a multitude of X-rays taken by a computerized scanner which is then turned into a quasi-3D representation.) The reason somebody would use barium is to look at the shape of the esophagus (food pipe), stomach, intestines, and rectum to see if there are any parts that are too wide, too narrow/pinched off, the wrong shape, if there is a blockage, etc.

Not so layman's explanation of the tests mentioned:
- Barium swallow: Barium is swallowed and a real-time series of X-rays (fluoroscopy) of the throat (pharynx) is done to see if the barium is swallowed properly. The resulting video shows where the barium goes. This is ordered if the doctor suspects the person may be having problems swallowing (aspiration or refluxing.)
- Esophogram: Barium is swallowed and fluoroscopy of the esophagus is performed to see if there are any abnormalities of the size/shape/anatomy of the esophagus. This is also ordered if somebody has trouble swallowing and the doctor suspects some problem like a stricture, widening of the esophagus (achalasia), abnormal anatomy of the esophagus (such as a diverticulum, malignancy, etc.)
- UGI = Upper gastrointestinal study. This fluoroscopy stufy follows the barium from being swallowed until it goes into the stomach. It shows all of the same things as the esophagram along with the size/shape/anatomy of the stomach as well. Ordered for the same reasons as the esophagram as well as if you suspect some anatomic problem with the stomach (e.g. stomach stapling/bypass not working correctly, etc.)
- Small bowel follow through: Barium is swallowed and then a series of individual X-rays taken at certain time intervals to track the progress of the barium through the stomach and small intestine. This is done to investigate things like the stomach emptying too slowly and obstructions in the small intestine.
- Barium enema: Barium is given via enema into the rectum to look at the anatomy of the rectum. This can investigate anatomic abnormalities of the rectum such as masses and fistulas (a hole from the rectum to somewhere else, this is abnormal.) This can also be used to both diagnose and treat intusussception (a disease of infants where part of the large intestine telescopes into itself.)

Re:What the what what? (1)

Docasman (870959) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530507)

Thank you.

Re:What the what what? (-1, Troll)

Dahamma (304068) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529665)

GI contrast, yes, should be familiar to anyone who isn't a moron. Seriously asking for suggestions of a replacement would have been pretty stupid, but he was being facetious, which again should be familiar to anyone who isn't a moron (or AC troll, I suppose).

And even if you are somehow not a moron, but just an extremely sheltered, naive Internet user - well, there's this site called Google [lmgtfy.com] ...

Re:What the what what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530047)

I was going to call that AC a moron but you beat me to it.

Re:What the what what? (-1)

Kergan (780543) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529699)

which is used as contrast for upper and lower GI studies

What the hell are these studies and why is it assumed Slashdot readers would know what they are? What's a "contrast" in this context?

Gl stands for Glycemic load. Barium is a rare earth metal. No idea how the test works exactly.

Is the submitter seriously asking us to suggest alternatives to barium? Worst submission ever. It could have explained what this bullshit means, and why China needed to improve safety?

Mining rare earth metals is very polluting. In the past two decades or so, most countries stopped producing rare earth metals, because China was producing enough and at a lower cost than they did. (It helped to have no pollution standards.) recently, China decided to keep its rare earth metals for itself to keep electronics manufacturing at home, and sharply cut exports. At the same time, its local population is increasingly vocal about pollution.

And agreed... TFS sucks and the question it concludes on is absolutely ludicrous.

That's an I not an L. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529741)

GI stands for Gastro-Intestinal, as in the eponymous tract. You are not as much of a smartass as you think you are.

Re:What the what what? (4, Informative)

deniable (76198) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529759)

Gastro-Intestinal aka the bit between the mouth and the anus. This stuff shows up (contrasts) on x-rays. Upper studies involve drinking it. Lower studies involve insertion from the other end. In other words, it's used for testing gut disorders and if you aren't swallowing it, you can shove it up your arse.

Re:What the what what? (1)

rikkards (98006) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530147)

Which opens a whole other can of worms with risks of colon perforation, reactions to the anesthetic, etc...

Re:What the what what? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530413)

"Gastro-Intestinal aka the bit between the mouth and the anus."

For many people, this is the definition of the brain.

Re:What the what what? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529763)

Gl stands for Glycemic load. Barium is a rare earth metal. No idea how the test works exactly.

GI also stands for Gastro-Intestinal

Is the submitter seriously asking us to suggest alternatives to barium?

Why not? Your comments aside, there are some very smart people who read slashdot.

Re:What the what what? (1, Flamebait)

PACSFerret (1292446) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529777)

On the contrary.. 1. GI stands for Gastro-Intestinal 2. While the question might properly be answered on a radiology board like AuntMinnie, posting on ./ has given a wider spectrum of comment that is on the verge of being interesting. Other than the traditional ./ negativity, of course.

Re:What the what what? (5, Informative)

Sique (173459) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529881)

Barium is a rare earth metal.

Not exactly, Barium is an alkaline earth metal, related to Magnesium and Calcium. Interestingly though, the U.S. are one of the largest producers of Barium, accounting for about 8% of the world wide barium output. It's mainly mined as barit, or heavy spar.

Re:What the what what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529963)

I'll fix that, China decide to dump the price on rare earth metal until they killed off most other producers, then they upped the price knowing that restarting something as dirty as mining rare eart metals is next to impossible

Re:What the what what? (1)

physburn (1095481) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530109)

Barium is not a rare earth metal, its a Group 2 element, in the same column of the periodic table as calcium.

---

Chemistry Feed [feeddistiller.com] @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

Alternatives.... (5, Funny)

phagstrom (451510) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529503)

1. Use Thorotrast.
2. People get cancer and die.
3. Then you Barium...

Re:Alternatives.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529595)

So, what is this Barium stuff? Did it come millions of years ago, from an asteroid that crashed into what is todays China? Is that why they're the only suppliers?

Or maybe there are other alternatives but simple more expensive(not artificially kept cheap) and haven't yet been considered?

Re:Alternatives.... (2)

gweihir (88907) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529641)

The thing is, like "rare earths", Barium are not that rare. It is however not that commercially viable to produce it, so China qualifies because of cheap labor and possibly because they may actually have planned to be the major producer in this market. As with many other products, the west is happy to get it cheap and ignores the dependency on the supplier.

Re:Alternatives.... (3, Funny)

Megane (129182) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530627)

Barium?

They cremated 'im!

yo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529529)

i'm right here.

-barry uhm

Why do they not recycle? (5, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529549)

The icky-factor aside, Barium is an element does not vanish and can certainly be sterilized to any degree desired. So, why do they apparently not recycle the stuff?

Re:Why do they not recycle? (3, Informative)

retchdog (1319261) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529757)

the icky-factor is it, both aesthetically and practically. barium is excreted in the feces, not urine. so, you have the choice of doing it at the hospital, which will be inefficient (no economy of scale, and unspecialized labor), or you could do it in central locations, which would require the transport and processing of huge shipments of collected human fecal matter, the difficulties of which should be obvious. it's doable of course, but rather unlikely.

as a side note: several years ago when i went to the hospital at my college town, i noticed the vaulted ceilings and friezes put there to cater to the wealthier residents, and i recalled them quite vividly when i got my bill. i'd rather have modest (but sterile) facilities and pay less, but image is everything i suppose. the point is, not only is there "icky-factor," there's the implicit standard of living which we "must" maintain. asking patients to shit into a jar and bring it back to the hospital would just be unimaginable. for better or worse, quite a few people would literally rather die than shit into a jar for two days.

Re:Why do they not recycle? (4, Funny)

GNious (953874) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529787)

Make "Rent of Barium" part of the bill - if you return the Barium, you get your deposit back.

Re:Why do they not recycle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529921)

Make "Rent of Barium" part of the bill - if you return the Barium, you get your deposit back.

This is the problem though, people don't seem to want their barium deposits back...

Re:Why do they not recycle? (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529951)

Make "Rent of Barium" part of the bill - if you return the Barium, you get your deposit back.

Eww, no... I get the refund, but they get to keep the barium AND my "deposit".

Re:Why do they not recycle? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530291)

Or if you deposit your barium, you get your rent back.

Re:Why do they not recycle? (1)

gweihir (88907) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529841)

Well, first I disagree on the "huge shipments", and no, I do not see the difficulties. Port-a-potty companies do this routinely, if not over longer distances. So collect, dry and sterilize (can be done economically locally) and then ship. As to the patient angle: Tell them they can either buy the stuff (at market rates), or use a chemical toilet for a day or two and bring it back that way. Or give them a laxative and have them use a special toilet in the hospital within a much shorter time. I really do not see the "unimaginable" here or the violation of conventional standards of living. As to indignity, remember that the stuff has to be introduced into the body and that seems likely to cause a lot more indignity. Any MDs here that can comment?

It seems to me this is really not a resource shortage, but a lack of willingness to adapt at the expense of the people that do need these exams.

Re:Why do they not recycle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530487)

Tell them they can either buy the stuff (at market rates), or use a chemical toilet for a day or two and bring it back that way.

You've never had an upper GI, have you? :)

Re:Why do they not recycle? (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529891)

barium is excreted in the feces, not urine. so, you have the choice of doing it at the hospital, which will be inefficient (no economy of scale, and unspecialized labor), or you could do it in central locations, which would require the transport and processing of huge shipments of collected human fecal matter, the difficulties of which should be obvious. it's doable of course, but rather unlikely.

We already collect it in a central location, just without the concentration of being only those with barium in it. But if it's so precious, it would be viable to extract it at the large metropolitan waste processing stations.

Re:Why do they not recycle? (4, Insightful)

White Flame (1074973) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529903)

This is a problem with more than Barium. Tons of nutritionally beneficial trace minerals and other such things are all being flushed into the oceans via sewage treatment & disposal, as our stool doesn't return to local soil.

Re:Why do they not recycle? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530443)

This, this is a huge problem that extends far beyond medical waste.

The human race as a whole likes to think that their waste just vanishes in to the pits of hell. It doesn't, it goes in a landfill or shat out in to the ocean.
This is a terrible thing when so much of it can be recycled very easily.

Biomass in particular is extremely precious for farm and in turn food related stuff, it can turn dying land back in to healthy land, various other useful minerals that can be extracted, methane in particular.
This more than anything should be pushed to be recycled. Throwing it in to the ocean is basically saying goodbye for a good solid 10,000+ years because even the higher swimming fish won't be eating the majority of it.

And waste food as well.
Setting up a recycle program to put waste food in a box that gets picked up, or even giving people a free (or cheap) blender for the sake of breaking down food to be flushed down the toilet and treated at a recycling plant that would be in your local sewage treatment.
Of course, the problem with the latter is some scummy people flush all sorts of non-organic crap down the toilet system daily (including entire diapers!), which should be punishable, but tracking such a thing would be almost impossible. A box, however, is easy to trace at the pick-up level.

But the problem I mentioned above is only the surface of exactly why such a system would never work in America today. People are wasteful and ignorant asses.
Even if you were to tell them that barium was cleaned and completely sterile, they would still never want it. Their death, natural selection, etc.

Re:Why do they not recycle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530481)

Oh, nonsense. Most waste water is not put into the oceans because many times they are far away and it would cost way to much.

Have you ever heard of sewage treatment? They "clean" the water and all this valuable stuff ends up in the residue which is put to landfills etc.

So it actually end up in the soil.

Re:Why do they not recycle? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530547)

Not the water-solluble minerals. They stay in the water, which flows through the rivers into the ocean.

Re:Why do they not recycle? (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529947)

The icky-factor aside, Barium is an element does not vanish and can certainly be sterilized to any degree desired. So, why do they apparently not recycle the stuff?

Why do I get this image of patients being given diuretics and not being allowed to leave until they cough up the Barium they were given? I'm guessing the bulk of it takes more than a couple of hours to pass through their system and 90% of the tests are outpatients. It's not the ick factor it's the practicality of it. I doubt you'd recover more than 10% for all the extra expense involved. I guess you can require them to sit around for 6 or 8 hours and piss in a bucket but even then at best half the Barium would be lost. You can probably recover it from sewage treatment plants but odds are it's cheaper to mine it.

Re:Why do they not recycle? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530387)

I don't know offhand whether it's dissolved or suspended, but either way recovering and reprocessing is probably going to be disproportionately expensive. It's not just sterilization either, contaminants of various kinds will have to be removed as well. (And contaminants doesn't just include the obvious stuff - my feces may contain drugs you are sensitive or allergic to, as well as food allergens, etc...)

Re:Why do they not recycle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530561)

The icky-factor aside, Barium is an element does not vanish and can certainly be sterilized to any degree desired. So, why do they apparently not recycle the stuff?

Why recycle when you can just buy more from China on the cheap? Until you can't buy anymore, that is.

If your local Walmart started selling cooking oil crazy cheap, would you go ahead and buy it? Or would you still insist on spending dollars to recycle cooking oils that now you can buy for cents? Just so you do not have to buy more from Walmart?

Use google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529555)

http://www.aaawholesalecompany.com/450105-cs.html

about a $100 a bottle.

Re:Use google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530185)

Erm... did you the see the huge warning above the product?

Kinda looks like a message you would see in times of shortage.

Alternatives include (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529557)

Gastrografin and Ultravist. No reason to defer these examinations.

Re:Alternatives include (2, Informative)

level_headed_midwest (888889) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530157)

Unless the patient is intolerant of iodine, which many people are. Granted, most are intolerant of *IV* iodinated contrast media rather than PO, but if they have "iodine in contrast" in their allergy list, what radiologist wants to risk getting sued for giving them Gastrografin? Not many I know of, for sure...

Re:Alternatives include (4, Insightful)

Stolpskott (2422670) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530447)

Quoting from the Wikipedia article for Iodine,
"Iodine sensitivity is rare but has a considerable effect given the extremely widespread use of iodine-based contrast media".

So I would say that using Diatrizoic acid/diatrizoate as a Barium replacement (Hypaque, Gastrografin and Ultravist are the trade names) in cases where there is no flagged Iodine sensitivity in the patient is viable, with Barium being used in those rare cases (if in doubt, do a quick Iodine test, as far as I can recall the results are pretty quick - a drop of iodine on the inside of the wrist or elbow, a small rash will form if the recipient is sensitive, and the rash can be treated with standard rash creams (if the recipient is REALLY sensitive, anaphylactic shock is a possibility if a large amount of Ioidine is applied - you dip the person's arm in it - but if the sensitivity is that bad, it should already be flagged). This also has a positive effect for most people, who are generally short of the daily Iodine intake levels they should have.

Disclaimer, my medical knowledge is limited by the fact that I dated and lived with a med student for 7 years, helping her study and revise for exams. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your own potential Iodine sensitivity or Gastro-intestinal issues. Do not come to /. and expect sane medical opinions here...

The invisible hand of the market... (1)

zugedneb (601299) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529565)

The invisible hand of the market will surely solve our problems :D But seriously, we have government to ensure what is strategically important, and thus I propose technocracy as universal solution.

Re:The invisible hand of the market... (1)

nusuth (520833) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530183)

I don't know where this article is coming from, but worldwide baryte production is in the order of couple million tons. A day's production is enough to give one billion people the procedure. It is not strategically important at all. I can buy it by truckload at about 200$/ton.

Re:The invisible hand of the market... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530293)

No because the left hand is being sat on by the government, and the right hand was stolen by the oligopolies.

Recycling? Where does the barium go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529571)

What about recycling? I mean even if it degrades to something else because of radioactivity, there's no reason not to revert that process and use solar energy to do it.

Re:Recycling? Where does the barium go? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529627)

the majority of barium sulfate used world wide is used in drilling fluids for oil well drilling. not exactly a venue for recycling. the medically-used barium sulfate is consumed with food or drink, or is squirted up your ass... also not exactly a venue for recycling... at least not in this day and age. some day, maybe, on that martian colony where *everything* is recycled... but not today.

Re:Recycling? Where does the barium go? (1)

jo_ham (604554) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529647)

What about recycling? I mean even if it degrades to something else because of radioactivity, there's no reason not to revert that process and use solar energy to do it.

Barium sulfate is not radioactive.

It's very insoluble in water, which is why it's so useful as a contrast agent; it's very heavy (thus, radio opaque) but insoluble so it doesn't have toxic effects.

Recovering it would be a case of waiting for the patient to shit it out. Perhaps hook all of the hospital toilets to a reclamation system. I figure the cost of reclaiming the amount used in a typical X-ray study is just not a cost effective thing to do.

Re:Recycling? Where does the barium go? (1)

spectrokid (660550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529709)

Perhaps hook all of the hospital toilets to a reclamation system.

. Or just ask the patient to take his next dump in a plastic bag...

And I trust you volunteer to be 1st in line (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529851)

In the abstract, this may sound great, but I doubt many average people will want to drink the "recovered" barium....

It's also not just the "ick" factor: The stuff is often passed-through very sick people. In re-processing it you would need to absolutely guarantee you had eliminated any and all biological "stuff" right down to the cellular level ..... without error. ANY quality control problems == huge lawsuits. We used to re-use syringes and needles in medical facilities, but no more ..... you only do such things when it's so hard and expensive to make new stuff and the lawsuit penalties for error are so low that the risks are "acceptable"; that's just not modern America.

Re:And I trust you volunteer to be 1st in line (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530089)

It's an inorganic compound. If recovered and purified it could be sterilized by heating it.

Re:And I trust you volunteer to be 1st in line (1)

jo_ham (604554) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530165)

In the abstract, this may sound great, but I doubt many average people will want to drink the "recovered" barium....

It's also not just the "ick" factor: The stuff is often passed-through very sick people. In re-processing it you would need to absolutely guarantee you had eliminated any and all biological "stuff" right down to the cellular level ..... without error. ANY quality control problems == huge lawsuits. We used to re-use syringes and needles in medical facilities, but no more ..... you only do such things when it's so hard and expensive to make new stuff and the lawsuit penalties for error are so low that the risks are "acceptable"; that's just not modern America.

Well, it melts at around 1300 C, so I assume heating it in a furnace at 1000 C would be suitable for eliminating "any and all biological stuff"?

Sorry, let me clarify (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530261)

Was being brief and assumed the implications were obvious...... guess not

1. Just because a few geeks are certain re-use is ok and might be willing to do it, the general public would not be

2. Even if you are a geek, there's no guarantee some minimum-wage flunky at a re-processing company (or some unionized hospital worker who is mad and in the middle of some "labor action") is gonna do a perfect job and the stuff YOU end up drinking will be properly re-processed. A bit like drinking re-cycled urine .... fine if you are a geek and the processing is being done by the rocket scientists at NASA for the space station, but are you still willing if it's being done by the guy who's only other career option included saying "want fries with that?"

3. A good lawyer will easily convince a typical jury (possibly with members who are anti-science lefties who reject nuclear stuff) that there was some bad thing in the re-processing process (probably done by evil "big hospital" or "big pharma") i.e. it's just another level of "doubt" ....

Think some more and you can imagine many other reasons that each just make the business case a little bit harder to close. No single cut might kill the patient (in this case: re-use of Barium), but lots of little cuts and he bleeds-out

Re:Sorry, let me clarify (5, Insightful)

jo_ham (604554) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530329)

Was being brief and assumed the implications were obvious...... guess not

1. Just because a few geeks are certain re-use is ok and might be willing to do it, the general public would not be

2. Even if you are a geek, there's no guarantee some minimum-wage flunky at a re-processing company (or some unionized hospital worker who is mad and in the middle of some "labor action") is gonna do a perfect job and the stuff YOU end up drinking will be properly re-processed. A bit like drinking re-cycled urine .... fine if you are a geek and the processing is being done by the rocket scientists at NASA for the space station, but are you still willing if it's being done by the guy who's only other career option included saying "want fries with that?"

3. A good lawyer will easily convince a typical jury (possibly with members who are anti-science lefties who reject nuclear stuff) that there was some bad thing in the re-processing process (probably done by evil "big hospital" or "big pharma") i.e. it's just another level of "doubt" ....

Think some more and you can imagine many other reasons that each just make the business case a little bit harder to close. No single cut might kill the patient (in this case: re-use of Barium), but lots of little cuts and he bleeds-out

You assume, naively, that the hospital does the recycling and just makes up fresh suspensions. Of course, if any recycling was done it would be to recover the pure BaSO4, which would be the domain of a chemical supplier; who then supplies the material to a pharma company, who then makes the thing you drink, who sells it to the hospital.

Recovering the material from shit is no different to recovering it from the ore it originally came from in the ground. Medical-purity BaSO4 is likely to be a further cut above the lab-grade stuff you can buy from any number of common chemical suppliers - purifying it is trivial - they do it all the time to make the stuff in the first place. What we're discussing here is the economic viability of recovering it from sewage waste. The source is ultimately unimportant. If it ends up in a drug it has to come from a very specific, well monitored source. There's no chance some "flunky" is going to affect the dose of contrast agent you drink. (Oh, and nice, unnecessary jab at union workers and "lefties" there - given your level of discourse and opinion of union labour I'll try and keep my words to fewer than four syllables so you can follow along).

It seems you live in a world full of conspiracies and hidden enemies in the shadows at every turn trying to get one over on you. You might want to just relax a bit. You can log in too; the government is not tracking your slashdot account.

Re: And I trust you volunteer to be 1st in line (1)

pmontra (738736) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530197)

Oh, people eat recovered Carbon anotnd other elements all the time, why not Barium? Just think about organic fertilizers.

Yes... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529601)

Yes, yes, I recognize some of these words.

Locally produced Barium (0)

ickleberry (864871) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529607)

Is there any other place to get Barium besides China? These chinese fcukers are starting to realise how much the West depends on their cheap products and are throwing their weight around a lot in recent times

Re:Locally produced Barium (2, Informative)

Kergan (780543) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529801)

Is there any other place to get Barium besides China?

They're called rare earth metals not so much because they're rare, since they're a bit all over the place, but because they're not concentrated enough to mine efficiently. This makes it highly polluting to extract them.

The US a couple more countries used to extract them, until China came along with no pollution standards, and priced everyone out of the market. Trouble is, you can't "just restart" such a mine. It's a decade long process to do so -- and it's in progress insofar as I've been following, because China decided to keep these strategic minerals for itself so as to keep high tech manufacturing at home.

Re:Locally produced Barium (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530247)

Ouch! Complete chemistry fail!
Barium is certainly NOT a rare earth. It is an alkaline earth metal. Look at the periodic table for christ's sake.
And the sad thing is this got modded up. Doesn't anybody know their high school chemistry anymore?
*weep*

Self-inflicted wounds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529805)

Most of the things China is holding-back are "rare Earth elements" which, contrary to the name are not all that rare. The US has abundant supplies of many of them (like the Neodymium used in brushless motor magnets) but the US has killed-off nearly all domestic production for political/environmental reasons. The Obama administration, for example, keeps pushing solar panels and electric cars, yet at the same time has made it nearly impossible to obtain any of the raw materials for either thing within the US. This gives people a false "green" impression .... but what it really does is shift the pollution to a place where it will be less controlled and mitigated (out of sight, out of mind.....)

Anybody in the US who opposes getting these materials in the US should, by law, be deprived of the benefits of them.

Re:Locally produced Barium (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529831)

" These chinese fcukers are starting to realise how much the West depends on their cheap products and are throwing their weight around..."

Cheap products like iPhones and iPads? What do you think they make those things out of? Rare Earth metals are used extensively in our modern gadgets, gadgets that we pay them to make for us. Seriously, where the heck do you think they are supposed to get the materials to make this stuff? Sell it to us so we can sell it back to them? Why not use it in the products they make?

It makes no sense to sell the raw resources when you are the primary consumer of those resources, especially if you're economy is reliant on the products derived from those resources.

Re:Locally produced Barium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530191)

Cheap products like iPhones and iPads?

Don't forget all the non-Apple laptops, tablets, phones, TVs, speakers, et cetera.

I'd hate for Android fanboys and mere Apple haters to think they were pure and untouched by the fact that all of our base (desires) are belong to China.

Re:Locally produced Barium (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530305)

Sure, blame the Chinese. It's not at all the fault of the wholesalers and dealers for not stocking enough to meet a small and temporary shortfall like this. Also the US has never, ever, thrown its weight around, right?

Re:Locally produced Barium (2)

FhnuZoag (875558) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530647)

People seem to think that China is some sort of charity. If people want to talk of global monopolization, then you should consider things like farm subsidies. Cheap rare earth materials may have enabled China to grow its production industry at the expense of certain rich countries in the past (and I'd say that current changes actually represent a *restoration* of the natural order of things) but present agricultural subsidies are basically killing people in poor countries *right now*. I'd be all in favour of a fair, balanced and international system of setting regulations, pricing, and subsidies, but moaning only when it turns against you is just simple whining.

Supply and demand (1)

WarJolt (990309) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529655)

Other countries will ramp up production. It will just take time.

"Increased safety in Chinese mines" damn commies! (1)

fantomas (94850) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529663)

Apparently due to increased safety regulations being adhered to in Chinese mines. Damned commies! they'll have unions next!

Re:"Increased safety in Chinese mines" damn commie (1)

deniable (76198) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529853)

Yeah, when did they start caring about the workers?

Re:"Increased safety in Chinese mines" damn commie (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529895)

Just like the FORCED GMO
Now ya want teh FORCED GUN BAN
where are you going with this bull poop?
where are we going, and why are we HERE?!
Some people take oaths, I did.
Expect me.

Cave Penicillin! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529691)

I think the medical profession is wasteful if they are not reusing barium on-site!

When penicillin was very new and little of it was available during and immediately after WW2, the urine of penicillin-treated patients was collected and distilled, so the penicillin could be saved and re-used several times over.

I don't see a problem with doing the same by purifying barium from patients' stool, expect the disgusting aspect. However, medical professionals must have a tolerance for disgust, else they would be not able to do their work.

Re:Cave Penicillin! (1)

jamesh (87723) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529745)

I think the medical profession is wasteful if they are not reusing barium on-site!

When penicillin was very new and little of it was available during and immediately after WW2, the urine of penicillin-treated patients was collected and distilled, so the penicillin could be saved and re-used several times over.

I don't see a problem with doing the same by purifying barium from patients' stool, expect the disgusting aspect. However, medical professionals must have a tolerance for disgust, else they would be not able to do their work.

It's not the bodies of the medical professionals that the recycled barium has to go in to, so I assume they'll be fine with it.

B12 (2)

Mike Frett (2811077) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529697)

The last time (Last Month, 19th) I got my B12 Injection I was told there is a Nationwide shortage of B12 used for Injections also. It was confirmed when I tried to refill my prescription at some local Pharmacy's. Thankfully I still have some left in my Vial, but those of you that don't and need this, you can be prescribed a Pill that will do the job, though not as good, until production picks up if it hasn't already.

CaSO4 or SrSO4 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529701)

Does anyone know of alternatives to barium?

Um, how about calcium sulfate or strontium sulfate? All are alkaline earth metals, and have the same or similar basic chemical properties because of having the same valence, electron configuration and so on. Right?

Re:CaSO4 or SrSO4 (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530401)

Calcium sulfate is water soluble.

Strontium sulfate is somewhat water soluble.

The advantage of barium sulfate is that it's not water soluble.

I say anyone needing a contrast drinks several bottles of Goldschlager before the procedure.

Re:CaSO4 or SrSO4 (1)

jo_ham (604554) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530407)

Does anyone know of alternatives to barium?

Um, how about calcium sulfate or strontium sulfate? All are alkaline earth metals, and have the same or similar basic chemical properties because of having the same valence, electron configuration and so on. Right?

It's not the chemical properties that are really important (other than the insolubility of BaSO4). The main reason is the density of the Ba atom - it's heavy, so it has a high absorption cross section for X rays. Calcium and strontium are much less large.

I smell oil. (5, Interesting)

Anachragnome (1008495) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529755)

Barium Sulfate is also HUGELY important in oil well drilling mud.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drilling_fluid#Composition_of_drilling_mud [wikipedia.org]

China putting a crimp on drilling mud could have some interesting effects, I'm sure. What makes little sense is the complaining about a shortage in hospitals, where a dose is less then an ounce, when oil drillers are pumping the stuff into the ground by the ton...daily...all over the world. Unless of course somebody wants us to get excited about China stepping on the hose without us finding out where the real shortage is.

I wonder who that might be. I also wonder who submitted this story.

Chemtrails (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529899)

Barium is also rumoured to be a major component of chemtrails...

Re:I smell oil. (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529915)

Perhaps it's that the market for medical barium runs through a monopoly, and with the increased cost, but fixed contracts, they make more profit by not delivering than delivering at a loss. I've seen dumber elsewhere, and never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence.

Re:I smell oil. (1)

echucker (570962) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530269)

The stuff in drilling mud isn't pharmaceutical grade.

Re:I smell oil. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530343)

But it is just an insoluble mineral that needs a bit of processing to make it suitable, as GP said it is used by the 1000's of tonnes for drilling. One blowout kill that I know of required about 10,000 tones of the stuff.

Maybe Barium White? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529815)

It is known to cause pregnancy though ...

SAFE EXPERIMENTS IN ATOMIC ENERGY (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529833)

Peps whining about that amazon drone toy huh, how about new OLD 1960's and 70's science kits?!
1. URANIUM ORE
2. SPINTHARISCOPE (with radioactive screen - so sniff and eye dirt those particles away!)
3. SAFE EXCITING (1960 advertizing not 2013 where it would be FABULOUS)
4. 3/4" blue map style folded but with perforated-tears RETARDED fsckin origami paper with atom symbol outside only when you fold it right, wrapping around the little piece of sandpaper!!? like a mc donnalds Hamburger with all the sand on the sandpaper shit failing off - LOL (anyone have a fucking plastic bag? uh, quick)
5. The little bitty testube with cap and raw radioactive dust and crap in there

SO for testing I was tinkin doo like the IRIDIUM COUPLE and snort/dirink it up and down with my godess?!
though I am scared as crap as I don't know my spirit guides on a name to name basis that I like and I was thinking along the lines of JIM JONES and cults.

yeah that's it. Breaker B reaker good budd ie is this channel #9 or 19 wanna fuck?

~ encrypted decrypted rot 26 mass sheep mess for anti-proton (yeah that guy that has the cool lab, who I / maybe WE trust?! )
~ ~ dear half passed humans, invite the one to meet the other 4 teh IR duo. /. F off if you can't keep up.

Fooium (1)

famebait (450028) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529865)

... or possibly bazium.

question (4, Funny)

shentino (1139071) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529885)

Doesn't anyone recycle this crap?

Re:question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530403)

it comes out in feces, I've had several of these procedures, and you are very happy when it leaves

realy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530005)

Maybe they should stop putting it in the chemtrails then...

Why are you asking us? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530111)

Does anyone know of alternatives to barium?

I hope you're not considering taking any answers you get from Slashdot seriously. Let's leave this one to medical science.

It's not a real issue. (1)

queazocotal (915608) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530121)

The price of barium metal at the moment is $150/kg or so - in small quantities.
Some of the 'unavailable' compounds mentioned above had a weight of around 340g, or 150g of barium, about $20.

Sure, you need processing - which pretty much amounts to dumping it in a tub, along with sulphuric acid.

Does the manufacturer of the barium compound have a problem sourcing product in a way that will result in a medically approved product without further applications to the FDA - perhaps.
But it's not shortage of barium.

Diatrizoic Acid (5, Interesting)

gee_cee0 (1370689) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530237)

Gastrografin is already being used as a viable alternative to barium in radiological studies as contrast for imaging the Gastro-Intestinal (GI) tract, especially in patients where bowel perforation may be imminent (barium spills into the abdominal cavity as a result, causing barium peritonitis; while rare, it is an incredibly deadly complication), in conditions such as intestinal obstruction, for example. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatrizoic_acid [wikipedia.org] Given that I am but a medical student, this is fairly well known in the medical world. Which makes this an odd question to ask...

Re:Diatrizoic Acid (1)

jo_ham (604554) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530441)

Given that almost every "expert" on here seems to be going off on one about "rare earth" issues, I doubt they're even aware of what barium itself is, let alone any alternatives to BaSO4 contrast suspensions.

Re:Diatrizoic Acid (1)

vuo (156163) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530445)

The essential feature of the element is that it has a high X-ray absorbance. But, any heavy metal has a high X-ray absorbance; this is why thorium was used in the first place. The problem is the solubility: barium sulfate is essentially insoluble, but other metals are usually somewhat soluble and thus toxic. In principle you could use any heavy element (iodine, mercury, lead, uranium, thorium, bismuth, etc.). In practice, barium, iodine, bismuth and thorium have been used.

One alternative that is worth a mention is something that absorbs less that tissue, namely air.

Alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530311)

Ooo, Ooo, I know! How about creating a litigation free environment in which doctors aren't afraid to make a diagnosis without rushing to a multitude of tests such as these?

...eventually impacting patients... (1)

kgkeys (239243) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530499)

I'll say, if they don't get their GI exam, they may very well end up impacted.

There is not a shortage of barium... (1)

3seas (184403) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530553)

...but if you want to know where its being used in large quantities.... Do a google search on Barium and chemtrails.
No Shit! And for those who do not believe chemtrails exist.... even mainstream news has covered the matter.

No shortage just expensive (2)

trout007 (975317) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530607)

There is no shortage. The problem is the price is increasing. But most likely the reimbursement rate by Medicare hasn't gone up to keep pace so they can't fill the orders for the price Medicare is covering. Most of this GI stuff is for seniors anyway. This is most likely a political move to get people scared so they can get the lobbyists to jack up the reimbursement rate.

Just take away President Obama's teleprompters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530705)

We'll get all the Barry-ums we need.
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