Most people associate helium with balloons. An on-going shortage of helium is having an effect on balloons and the stores that sell them. One retailer, Party City, is closing 45 stores. Party-planners are doing the crazy dance. How can you have a party without balloons?
But the inconvenience of not being able to blow up balloons is not the real impact of the continuing shortage of helium.
Helium is a non-toxic, inert gas. It is used in a number of industries, such as for pressurizing rocket fuel tanks. It can be combined with oxygen to create nitrogen-free atmospheres for deep sea divers. Helium is used as a coolant in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). It is a component of cable TV and Internet services. Telephones, computers and televisions contain parts that use helium.
Helium is produced naturally from the decay of radioactive elements on the earth and cosmic rays. It is not – an apparently can not – be created by humans. About 75% of all helium is found in only three locations: Qatar, Wyoming and Texas, according to Gasworld.com, a gas-trade publication.
The demand for helium continues to go up, but supply continues to diminish.
One more piece of evidence, in my opinion, that we humans are consuming more resources on our planet than we can replace. In the big scheme of things, maybe blowing up balloons is just not that high a priority.