Balloon shops are full of hot air over the limited availability of helium — or at least, they'll have to be if they want to keep supplying their customers with the air-filled decorations.
Jeanne Campbell, owner of Party Novelties, said suppliers have been warning her for years that the commodity is becoming a limited one.
“This is the crunch, I think” the shop owner said.
She recently received an email from her gas suppliers, stating she would only be able to get a certain amount on a monthly basis.
The number was calculated based on her average annual usage. Campbell said she is lucky to be getting even that; Others are being completely cut off. While it's better than nothing, it will still be a challenge for her to get by on what she is now being supplied with, especially during the busy summer months.
“If I run out before the end of the month, I don't get more,” she said.
So far, the helium shortage hasn't effected how she does business.
“The cost of helium keeps increasing,” she said. “I haven't passed it on to the consumer yet.”
Campbell said she's hoping it doesn't come to that point.
“Hopefully someone can figure out something else that floats,” she said. “Helium is a big part of decorating. What's a party without balloons?”
Luckily, there are alternatives. Campbell said it is possible to make elaborate arrangements with air-filled balloons — something she called “doable,” but a lot more work.
While there are ways to work around the decorating dilemma, the global helium shortage does present other problems.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the biggest user of helium. The gas is used to cool the superconducting magnets on MRI machines, according to chemicool.com.
This could become problematic in other cities, but according to Health Science North spokesperson Dan Lessard, it's not a concern locally.
“No issues here,” he stated.
François Caron, a Laurentian University chemistry professor, said there is really no need to worry about the shortage yet.
“The reserves around the world are fairly large,” he said.
According to media reports, the world's largest stores of the non-renewable resource are kept in Amarillo, Texas, at the US National Helium Reserve.
“The experts warn that the world could run out of helium within 25 to 30 years, potentially spelling disaster for hospitals, whose MRI scanners are cooled by the gas in liquid form, and anti-terrorist authorities who rely on helium for their radiation monitors, as well as the millions of children who love to watch their helium-filled balloons float into the sky,” the indepdent.co.uk story stated.
Campbell said her suppliers are suspecting the limited quantities of helium will be effective until at least September. Hospitals will continue to get priority until then, “rightfully so,” she said.
Posted by Arron Pickard