Balloon releases can have adverse affects on the environment when they come back down. (Photo courtesy of Metro)
Balloon releases can have adverse affects on the environment when they come back down. (Photo courtesy of Metro)
VAN WERT – The idea that latex balloons are completely biodegradable is no longer true. Early balloons were made from animal bladders, but the development of balloons has evolved over the years from the use of natural materials to chemically modified and completely synthetic molecules. Modern-day balloons are now made from materials including rubber, latex, polychloroprene and nylon.

Balloonsblow.org states that releasing balloons is simply littering. Once released, a balloon can travel hundreds if not thousands of miles in the wind and end up in any field, forest, preserve, stream, river, lake or ocean. Animals do not know the difference and believe this bright colored item to be some form of food. Once ingested, a balloon can cause blockage of the stomach and intestines, eventually leading to starvation for the animal. Even natural latex rubber does not degrade quickly enough to avoid this.

“Birds, turtles and other animals commonly mistake balloons for food, which can harm and even kill them,” states the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Balloons are found in about one out of every 20 dead seabirds examined.”

In June 2015, the Wildlife Center of Virginia found a dead bald eaglet with a fractured wing. A necropsy was performed, and the foreign bodies extracted from the eaglet’s ventriculus included two balloons.

In August 2016, an adult osprey was found tangled in balloon strings and had to be euthanized at the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center.

In March 2017, a pair of jet skiers rescued a loggerhead sea turtle they spotted tangled in a balloon string off the coast of California. They spotted the turtle struggling to break free from the balloon string and shared their rescue video to YouTube channel Wild Spirit Nature Channel.

Birds, dolphins, whales, sea turtles, and seals in water, as well as sheep, cows, dogs and cats on land have all been found to eat balloons or get tangled in the strings.

Mylar/foil balloons get tangled on power lines, cause power outages and spark fires, and take several years to begin breaking down into microplastics.

Mass balloon releases are already illegal in several states, cities and countries, because after all, it is littering. Balloons are hazards when they enter the environment. All released balloons, whether intentionally or accidentally, return to the Earth as litter. Balloons kill countless animals and cause dangerous power outages.

Researchers suggest Earth friendly alternatives that can be used for celebrations instead of balloons. Opting for reusable party décor such as pinwheels, banners, ribbon dancers or blowing bubbles are just a few great ideas. Choosing to plant a tree is another green option. It is suggested that if balloons must be used to keep them tethered so they don’t blow away.

Although standard latex balloons are not recyclable as there is no current reuse market for them, mylar balloons are made with a plastic/nylon synthetic material that is recyclable and reusable. These balloons will stay in a landfill forever, so it is recommended to keep them and reuse them. They can be refilled with helium for another event, used for crafts and many other DIY projects.

For more information, facts and photos visit BalloonsBlow.org.