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SAN ANTONIO -- What do balloons and MRI s have in common?Both rely on helium. But the gas is going up, up and away in price during a nationwide shortage.

There has been a shortage of helium for the past month and suppliers don t see it stabilizing until at least November.The last on the priority chain are flower shops where a single helium balloon can go for $6.

Helium is a byproduct of natural gas, and some heavy helium fields have dried up.The Texas Panhandle is a primary source for helium production. The federal government has the largest reserves on hand there.

Some predict the health care industry will eventually be the only ones to use helium.

MRI s use helium to cool the magnets in the machines which may get overheated.Their supplies are important to run the machines so they may be more susceptible to higher prices.Welders also use helium for certain type of welds, but suppliers say their inventory may be cut in half during shortages.

Andrew Tenorio of Flowers to Go says, I kind of feel sorry for the kids, though. Pretty soon kids aren t going to know what it s like to speak with a Mickey Mouse voice.
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