I do not often have a reason to need helium. Who does? I guess moms or event planners that put on birthday parties. In any case, I had a reason to purchase balloons for someone last week. I placed my order and went to a different part of the store to pick out a card and a few other things. When I got back to pick up the balloons, the attendant apologized and said that she had run out of helium. “Oh, interesting” I said. “Is there a place nearby that I can get balloons at such short notice?” “No, there is a helium shortage, that is why Party City closed.” She told me.
Who knew! Of course I was fascinated. Maybe I missed it in the news, but could a helium shortage really close a Party City? Maybe so. A few interesting facts about helium:
- The US supplies 75% of helium supplies
- Amarillo, Texas is known as the helium capital (where the Federal Helium Reserve is located)
- The federal government is getting out of the helium business, and the public sector is not prepared
- Helium is used to freeze the magnets in MRI scanners
- Used for filling balloons (that one you knew)
- There is enough helium in the Federal Reserve to last 3 years
- Preserves rare documents, such as the Declaration of Independence
- It is the second lightest element and the second most abundant element
- Of course it also fills the Goodyear blimp
- Inhaling it causes your voice to change
Until the shortage is remedied, there will be sad faces of little boys and girls with no SpongeBob balloons at their birthday parties, and we will have to come up with some fresh ways to cheer someone up in the hospital without any get well balloons!
A few articles in case you want more context:
Helium shortage? Bureaucrats, firms are creating too little hot air – The Christian Science Monitor
As Shortage Worsens, We Visit the Federal Helium Reserve – Popular Mechanics