If a worldwide shortage of helium continues very long, it could become difficult to be able to buy or sell balloons filled with it.

The year-old supply problem goes back to reduced capacity to extract helium from natural gas, at only a handful of facilities around the globe.

Timmins Flower Shop co-owner Christine Portelance says at one point, she did run out.

“We try to keep two tanks in stock,” she tells My Timmins Now Dot Com,  “but when there’s a shortage, the emergency departments at the hospital have priority over flower shops.”

In a hospital setting, helium is used in MRI machines.

The law of supply and demand means the cost has gone up, but it hasn’t been too bad for Portelance.

“We try to stay pretty fair and we… incur the cost.”