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Deflated Excitement: National Helium Shortage Making Party Balloons Hard To Find

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- What's a special birthday party without balloons?

That's what Juanita Chapman, of Wilkins Township, thought as she planned her husband's special celebration.

"It's his 50th, and I've been planning this event for months," Chapman told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Tuesday.

But when she went to Party City to get some helium-filled balloons, she says, "I really didn't think there'd be a shortage in helium."

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Yep, and a shortage of helium meant no helium-filled balloons.

"Everyone has a shortage to some extent, some suppliers worse than others," says Scott Mackay, of West Penn Laco, which supplies helium.

Mackay says, nationally, helium is in demand for things more important than balloons.

"You can use it for balloons, but you also use it for welding applications, and it can be used for cooling things that need to be super-cooled like an MRI machine."

But, of course, every kid loves a helium-filled balloon often for the wrong reason.

Still, the shortage is real, says Giant Eagle, telling KDKA, "Like all retailers, Giant Eagle has been impacted by this shortage, and is currently offering customers air-filled balloons affixed to plastic holders as an alternative."

While stores like Party City, Dollar Tree, and Giant Eagle no longer provide helium filled balloons, Party City still has helium tanks, small ones that for $35 to $45 and fill as many as 25 balloons depending on the size.

"The shortage of helium supplies has impacted many industries. While Party City isn't immune to these challenges, we are working aggressively with our supply partners and regularly receive helium replenishments to serve our customers in-stores. We are also actively managing supply solutions such as Balloon Time disposable tanks and will continue to do so." – Party City Holdco Inc. said in a statement.

A natural element, helium is extracted when natural gas is extracted, but apparently, is not found much in the Marcellus Shale in this region.

So how long might this shortage last?

"I think it will be at least through 2019," says Mackay.

As for no balloons at Chapman's birthday party for her husband's 50th?

"He's not going to mind. He's not going to be too concerned. But I am, so I'm going to have to be very creative," she said.

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