Helium is in short supply in the city of Edmonton, which is worrying novelty shops in the short term and even the health industry in the long term.
“Right now we’re in a severe situation where helium just simply isn’t available,” says Stephen Dubetz, owener of The Balloon Gang, a novelty balloon shop in Edmonton.
“If a person walks in and wants 50 balloons for a major party we’ll try and limit them to a group of two or three, sort of thing…so they’re not cleaning out our entire supply in one event.”
Dubetz says he has just one tank left and that is only enough for about 500 balloons. Although he has dealt with helium shortages before, he has never seen it this bad.
It’s more than just novelty shops use helium though. Hospitals use helium in routine procedures every day, like MRIs.
However, Alberta Health Services says it has more than enough helium to cope the lesser supply.
But University of Alberta physicist John Beamish says while this may be a temporary problem, it is also a sign of problems ahead due to the fact helium is a non-renewable resource, mostly extracted from natural gas deposits.
“I think at present, it’s not really a shortage,” Beamish says, “But it’s clear that in the long term — in about 10 or 20 years — there will be a worldwide shortage and prices will no doubt go up.”