Stop Mass Balloon Releases
By Cameron, 2nd grader, Atlanta, GA, USA
I am 8 years old and like most kids I like balloons. But I’m really worried about what they are doing to our environment and wildlife. Why is throwing trash along the side of a road illegal, but releasing balloons in the sky to explode and fall to the ground in pieces legal? To me it seems that releasing balloons into the air is the same thing as littering and laws need to be put in place to protect both our marine and terrestrial wildlife.
According to Carolyn Shea of the National Audubon Society:
“Once airborne, balloons can travel far afield and often end up joining the flotsam (floating debris) riding the world’s oceans. One that was unleashed in a science fair experiment to investigate wind direction was retrieved on an island 1,300 miles from its release site.” *
On land or in water, balloons can easily be mistaken for prey and eaten by animals. They are especially harmful in an aquatic environment because they look like jellyfish – a major source of food for marine animals including sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish and seabirds. When these marine animals ingest balloons a valve at the top of the stomach can get blocked so that food cannot pass through, causing slow, painful starvation. Attachments such as ribbons and string tied to balloons are a particular problem for land and sea animals as they can get tangled around the mouths and beaks making it impossible for these animals to eat.
Those in the balloon industry would have us believe that latex balloons are bio-degradable, meaning that balloons have the ability to break down, or decompose back into the natural environment without causing harm, as fast as an oak leaf. However, research published in Soil Biology and Biochemistry found that 54% of oak leaves decomposed in a two-year period, and it takes about four years for oak leaves to completely degrade under natural conditions. This gives wildlife plenty of time to encounter this seemingly harmless killer.** Keep in mind that Mylar balloons (balloons that feature a metallic foil and are made of nylon that can stay inflated from days to weeks), as well as ribbons and strings, are NOT bio-degradable at all.
Balloon releases are illegal in several states including: Virginia, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, New York, Texas and California. I recently moved to Georgia from Florida where it is a crime to intentionally release more than (10) balloons in a 24-hour period.
Several years ago, (21) 3rd grade students from Nassakeag School in Long Island, New York successfully asked their county officials to outlaw the mass release of more than 24 balloons into the air. The law imposes fines of $500 for the first violation, $750 for the second, and $1,000 for the third. It also requires balloon sellers to post notices about the new ban.
I would like to see mass balloon releases made illegal in all 50 states. I have started an on-line petition regarding this topic. My hope is that I can present this petition, along with additional information, to my local state representative so that legislation can be put in place to stop mass balloon releases in Georgia. If you’d like to help in my efforts, please go to http://www.change.org/petitions/georgia-politicians-make-mass-balloon-releases-illegal and sign my petition. Together, we can help save one of our world’s most precious resources – its wildlife!
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better. It’s not.” Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.
*Audubon Magazine, http://archive.audubonmagazine.org/ask/ask0209.html
**Clean Virginia Waterways, http://www.longwood.edu/cleanva/balloons.htm
If you’d like more information about this issue, please contact Amie Koporc at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Balloon release image via Shutterstock
Oak leaf image via Shutterstock
Dolphin image via Shutterstock
Cameron Koporc is passionate about nature and the environment. Coming soon, Juno’s Journey, a book she wrote to benefit sea turtle rescue organizations. Visit www.makeyourmarkpublishing.com for more information about her work.