Balloon artists can’t promise wedding reception displays that float until the last dance. Scuba divers have to cancel expeditions because the gas isn’t available to sustain them. And distributors hustle in secret to suppliers offering the slightest amount in what suddenly feels like a black market.
Why? Helium — second only to hydrogen on the list of the universe’s most common elements, the noble gas that has always occupied top-right real estate on the periodic table — is in short supply.
Business owners who use helium across the region — and it’s about as diverse a group as you can imagine — describe the same events over the past few months: dwindling amounts from suppliers, increased costs that are passed on to the customer and a fear that legislation isn’t leading to a solution anytime soon.