Global helium shortage deflating more than balloon business

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Party season is upon us!

Decorations are out in full force for Mother’s Day, prom, graduation, and weddings, but finding the perfect balloons is a challenge this year. Experts say a global helium shortage is to blame. This is jacking up prices for balloons and leaving many party stores out of stock as they wait for their vendor to deliver more helium. 

Anahisa Moreno was on a hunt for Mother’s Day balloons Friday. She made four or five stops but couldn’t find a store with balloons. 

“For some people, it’s just a balloon but some other people it has a meaning, you know?” said Moreno.

Supply experts call it a global helium shortage. Helium is used in much more than party décor. It’s used in the medical field for MRI machines, the manufacturing of technology and in scientific research.

Fresno State physics professor Pei Chun Ho uses helium as a coolant in her research projects but says it’s now too costly, with a price tag of $5,000 for 100 liters, an amount she says would last a week.

“It used to be roughly 100 liters for $1,000 and that’s already expensive,” said Ho.

The U.S. is the world’s largest supplier of the nonrenewable gas, but the reserves are being depleted while overall demand grows, leaving the future availability of helium up in the air. 

Supply experts predict the shortage will continue and prices will keep rising through this year and next. But, a large new helium source being developed in Russia will turn things about in 2021.

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