PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The supply of helium, the second-most abundant element in the universe, has been up in the air these days.
As a result, a worldwide shortage of the element — one that has to be mined from the ground and reserved — is causing disruptions for stores that sell a staple party favor.
At Dino’s Party Center in South Philly, owner David Cattai still has a decent amount of helium for balloons, but his supply chain has shrunk from three companies to one, and prices have soared.
“It’s gone up about 100 percent per tank,” he said. “So if we were paying about $10, it’s now costing me $20.”
However, he still considers himself fortunate.
“I know my competitors out there have not had it on weekends,” he said.
Party City, a nationwide chain, is cautioning customers ahead of time by posting information about the shortage on its website, along with suggested alternatives — like using air instead and attaching the balloons to an arch.
“Due to an unforeseen disruption in supply and increasing demand, a small group of our stores are being impacted by the global helium shortage,” read the disclaimer. “This may affect fulfillment of balloon orders. We’re working to replenish the helium at the affected stores as more supply becomes available.”
This shortage isn’t all about fun and games. Helium is also vital for things like MRI machines, silicon wafer manufacturing, and welding.