In 1990 a Connecticut state law was enacted prohibiting the intentional release of ten or more helium balloons within a 24-hour period. Today, many people know of the dangers to wildlife that helium balloons cause and they cringe at the sight of even a single balloon, intentionally or accidentally, sailing upward into the sky.
- High school graduations routinely distribute helium balloons for outdoor displays to honor the graduating seniors.
- Children are encouraged to let loose helium balloons in celebration of a fundraising event for a worthy cause.
- A recent road race within our chapter area distributed well over 100 balloons on ribbons to participants to release simultaneously while town and state dignitaries looked on.
The Menunkatuck Audubon Society believes it is time to refresh the public’s memory as to why that little law passed in 1990 is so important and why it needs to be enforced and obeyed.
Balloons kill wildlife. Whether intentionally released as a promotional event, or carelessly let loose from an outdoor celebration, or accidentally escaped from the grasp of a child, a helium balloon can travel very far in a short period of time. (One was documented to have traveled 150 miles in less than four hours after escaping from a realty office.) Eventually the balloon deflates and descends back to earth or sea and begins to wreak its havoc on nature.
Here’s a quiz:
- What does a deflated helium balloon look like in the ocean?
- What is the favorite food of some species of endangered sea turtle?
If you answered ‘jellyfish’ to both those questions you now understand the problem.
Sadly, sea turtles, whales, seals, sea birds, and other marine creatures die every year from ingesting or becoming entangled in discarded plastics, including balloons. Plastics clog or fill the digestive tracts of these animals, causing them to starve to death.
On land a deflated balloon trailing a ribbon becomes a hazard to many species of wildlife, including osprey chicks. Notorious trash collectors, adult ospreys add balloons, fishing line, kite string, plastic bags, and other human garbage to their nest. The nest becomes a death trap for their young, who become hopelessly ensnared in our carelessly discarded trash.
Whether accidental or deliberate, balloon releases are a form of pollution that can easily be stopped if more people are made aware of the dangers they pose to wildlife. We ask everyone to help spread the word.
Read more about the threat posed by balloons and download balloon information posters at balloonsblow.org.