EXETER, Pa. -- A global helium shortage is affecting balloon makers in Luzerne County.
Dom Bartoli has worked with balloons for nearly 30 years. He runs Balloon Works by Party Zone in Exeter. Through the years, he's experienced ups and downs because of a shortage of helium.
"I know there are some stores that have been running out of helium periodically throughout the summer and fall," Bartoli said. "They go through whole weekends without any helium."
Helium is a noble gas that has to be extracted from the ground. Only a handful of companies can process the helium that is used in balloons.
"There have been times where we have ordered six tanks and we've only gotten two, and the two tanks that I did get were actually the hospital grade helium," Bartoli said. "There are several grades, so I had to pay a little bit more for them."
Newswatch 16 spoke to some of Bartoli's customers who said they were shocked there is a helium shortage.
"It just seems like it is gas," Brian Barrett of Laflin said. "You don't even think about that when you pick up a balloon that it's a potentially rare element."
Bartoli said there are ways around the shortage. He uses nitrogen to fill many of his orders. The only downside to using nitrogen is that it doesn't float like helium does.
"So, (nitrogen) is just a little heavier than air, but you could use compressed air if you wanted," Bartoli said. "We don't use it because smaller particles of air escape through the surfaces of the balloon and the ballons get soggy."
While Bartoli believes there is not much to do about the shortage, he said he will still work to fill any order he gets. Right now is not a busy time for him.
"As long as we have our supply and we're able to cover all of the orders we have on the books, we'll continue to fill other people's balloons for them," Bartoli said.
Bartoli said the next busy season for balloons is New Years.