By KATHY HAGEMAN
Most people know that helium is the element that makes giant balloons in parades and small balloons at parties soar into the air.
But what most people donít know is that helium is crucial for use in MRI machines, welding, some manufacturing products and numerous other uses. Itís also currently in short supply.
Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe. But on Earth helium is relatively hard to obtain. Thatís because itís trapped underground with natural gas.
Helium is a byproduct of natural gas recovery which is recovered through a distillation process and vended separately. It is created by the radioactive decay of heavy elements within the earthís crust, according to Wikiansw-ers.com.
Currently, there is a worldwide shortage of the element, which is driving up prices making many party stores feel a little deflated.
Locally, Celebrations Party Store in Abilene can still obtain helium, ďalthough itís a little hard to get,Ē said store owner Jaime Durham.
Another Abilene business, the Flower Box, is still able to obtain helium through Holt Motor Co., also of Abilene. However, Flower Box co-owner Donna Berger said the businessí main focus is flowers and balloons are just an additional service.
Westís Country Mart used to offer helium filled balloons, but no longer does so.
Interestingly, Kansas is the nationís leader in helium production, according to the Emporia State University website ďNatural Resources of KansasĒ by Anthony Farrar.
Because of the helium shortage some scientists believe the Earth will be virtually helium-free by the end of the 21st Century.