Feds say helium supplies are rapidly deflating

It\'s not just balloons and funny voices affected by helium shortages. Helium/oxygen mixtures are used by divers who descend to great depths. When breathed under pressure, helium has less toxic effects than nitrogen, the major component of air. When nitrogen is breathed under pressure, it can cause nitrogen narcosis, a condition that can disorient divers. (Courtesy si.edu)

WASHINGTON – Just in time for grad parties and summer celebrations, there’s a helium shortage, NBC Washington reports.

The problem started in 1996 when the federal government enacted a cost-cutting law and began selling off helium reserves that were stored underground.

Now, they’re running out.

Some party stores say they are having trouble finding suppliers, so keep this in mind for graduation celebrations and summer parties.

Another problem, however, is that helium is used for more than filling balloons and making your voice sound funny. It’s also used in flat-screen TVs, fiber optics, solar panels, rocket fuel and even MRIs.

WTOP’s Kyle Cooper contributed to this report. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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