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Helium shortage weighs on users big and small
Commodities » From party balloons to machinery, government’s hold on prices has an impact.

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At a glance

A look at helium

Uses » MRI magnet cooling, medical lasers , aerospace arc welding, computer chip manufacturing

Produced » From natural gas deposits mostly in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas; Utah production has been halted

Properties » An inert, nonflammable, nontoxic gas; coldest liquid known, doesn’t become radioactive

Availability » Supplies are tight due to government controls and congressional inaction on potential remedies; older helium plants are not producing at full capacity, and new ones have been delayed.

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