By Dorothy Tucker

CHICAGO (CBS) – A shortage of helium in the U.S. could put a damper on your next party.

Helium balloons — used to add spice up graduation, birthdays, or anniversary parties — are in limited supply or have risen in price.

CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports.

By the time Julio Perez ended up at Card and Party Warehouse in Kilbourn Park, he’d been searching for helium balloons all day.

The other places “basically told me they ran out of helium,” Perez says. “There was a nationwide crisis.”

The shortage of Helium is national. Experts say producers overseas are having maintenance problems, and so supplies are low. That means prices are high — and consumers are feeling it.

At the Card and Party Warehouse, for example, helium balloons that were 69 cents are now 99 cents. The popular decorative ones that once retailed for $2.88 are now $3.29.

In attempt to ration their limited supplies, places like Doolins Party Supply are turning away new corporate customers.

“If we were being delivered, say, 30 tanks a week – now, we’re being delivered only nine tanks,” Dan Doolin says.

At Card and Party Warehouse, they’ve eliminated wholesale customers, such as florists, in order to service walk-in clients.

That means dozens of empty tanks that usually rent from $60 to $150 dollars are stacked in the storage room, cutting profits as much as $20,000 this year.

“We’re not selling any balloons … and now traffic is,” Swartz says.

Experts say it could be several months before the supply increases. The limited supply of helium could last another year, which means prices could continue to rise.

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