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Tri-Cities Facing Shortage of Helium

mid columbia facing shortage of helium
(Photo by Florian Seefried/Getty Images)

Better think twice before you get a jones sucking helium from a balloon then freaking people out when you answer the phone!

Demand for helium is outpacing what is produced in the U.S., and it has been a growing problem over the last few years.  Requests of helium has gone up considerably, and dealers are turning to other countries. This is driving up the price. Helium is used in everything from party balloons to MRI machines to asthma treatments.  It is also used in numerous industrial and welding applications.

While some science applications can substitute hydrogen in place of helium, hydrogen is far too flammable for mylar party balloons (no Hindenburg joke here). Steps are being made to try to ease the problem, but until manufacturing increases, prices will probably stay high, or grow higher.  Some Tri-Cities party stores have had to refer people to other outlets to get the gas for their balloons.

Helium was found to be a safe alternative to the highly explosive hydrogen when it came to large balloons and airships in the 1920s and 30s.  The reason the Hindenburg did not use helium was because of a post-World War I moratorium that prohibited helium sales to Germany (the world feared they would use it to build armed airships). Had Germany been allowed to use it,  the tragic crash of the Hindenburg  probably would have never happened.

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