FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) -- If you've been to a party or dollar store lately, you might have seen signs on the door saying they're out of helium.
But a helium shortage can cause bigger problems than not having balloons or a tank to rent for your party.
Helium is abundant in the universe, but the form used by industry is a byproduct of natural gas production. And the country's largest reservoir of helium, in the panhandle of Texas, is expected to only produce enough for the next few years.
That's a concern for the medical industry, because MRI machines need more than 10,000 litres of helium to run, and keep the massive magnet cold at 452 degrees below zero.
Newer machines require less helium, and hospitals and imaging centers get first crack at the helium supply anyway.
So while there is a shortage, Lutheran and Parkview Hospitals aren't delaying any MRI appointments.
"It's harder to get it than it used to be, so if you would need to replace, replenish, you may have to wait. But at this point in time, we have experienced no, no problems," says Lori Bassett, imaging manager at Parkview Hospitals.
When you think of helium, you probably think balloons. And while balloons account for only 10% of the helium market, it is impacting vendors in our area.
For example, A Party Apart needed 12 helium tanks for an event this week -- they were told they could have three. Their costs have gone up 15-25%, and they're going to go up again September first.
So they're finding other ways to get customers what they want.
"We can do bouquets, we can stick them out of the ceiling, we can stick them out of the lampshades. They can be air inflated, so we can still do decorating that way. So the biggest part it's impacted us are the large balloons that we do more often," says Cheryl Brockman, A Party Apart owner.
The company has only been able to do about a third of what it normally does this summer with those large balloons.
And Fort Wayne is fortunate. One of her colleagues in Michigan has had to drive two -hours to get tanks of helium, at $400 apiece. If tanks were available here for A Party Apart to rent out, they'd go for about $150.
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