Helium Suppliers Facing Critical Shortage

Lynchburg, VA - On October 7, the government's federal helium reserve, which contains a third of the world's supply, will no longer be able to sell to private industries.

The helium shortage could affect more than your average birthday party.

Helium is critical for certain medical and scientific devices.

The shortage has caused helium to triple in price over the last few years.

With no end in sight, suppliers are asking you fill up your balloons responsibly.

At Arthur's Flower Cart, the balloon orders keep coming in, but customers could have one less option.

"We sell maybe 12 to 15 balloons a week," said Kandy Arthur Scruggs.

A few streets away, their supplier's helium has been cut in half.

"There's approximately six or seven helium plants throughout the world and when you only have one of those working, that really deplenishes your stock," said Darryl Murray.

If you can get your hands on some helium, prepare to pay more.

Darryl Murray says one of the cylinders used to go for about $50. Today, they sell for well over $200.

"There is a problem. How deep it is? I'm just on the very surface of it," Murray said.

It isn't just balloons, helium is used in chips that control nearly every piece of modern technology and is critical for medical lifesaving devices like MRI's.

"If we have to give up selling balloons for someone needing it in the hospital, I can certainly see that," Scruggs said.

Arcet is already rationing the amount of helium it sells to floral shops, car dealerships, and party planners. Other suppliers have stopped doing business with them altogether.

"As the consumer who likes to purchase balloons, yes, that's going to probably eventually go away," Murray said.

This October, a 1996 law is scheduled to go into effect, taking the federal government out of the helium business, leaving a huge hole in the helium supply because the private sector hasn't caught up with demand.

Earlier this year, the House passed a bill extending the government's production of helium, but it stalled in the senate.

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