Because of a worldwide shortage of helium, prices for the gas have reportedly been increasing.
Helium does a lot more than make balloons soar and give you an “Alvin and the Chipmunks” voice. Among other things, the substance is used in MRI machines, high-tech manufacturing, and physics research.
In the US, Helium is usually generated as a byproduct of natural gas mining. Here, they are in the middle of a shortage of helium, due partly because the recession has slowed natural gas production. About three-quarters of the world’s helium is produced in the U.S., according to the Kansas City Star, and while production is supposed to be increased by the end of the year in spots ranging from Wyoming to Russia, the gas is expected to be in short supply for months, if not years.
Nevada’s Elko Daily Free Press reports that balloons account for only 10% of the helium market. Costs associated with MRIs, research and medical imaging, and semiconductor manufacturing may all rise because they use helium.
But what about the really important thing, i.e., balloons? Many US business owners say they’re doing their best to avoid passing along higher costs to customers.
Earlier this summer, party stores in Canada said that the price for a tank of helium had increased 300%. “We’re told hospitals get it first, then manufacturing and we get what’s left,” one balloon retailer said, while explaining that he had to raise prices due to the helium crisis.
We will find out what is happening in the UK but please pass on your comments about helium prices and suggest where the best deals are.