U.S. environmentalists warn: Balloons provide no joy for wildlife

Balloons washing up on the beach is a ‘huge problem,’ advocates say

Environmental advocates are raising awareness about the dangers of balloons for wildlife in the Great Lakes and elsewhere.

Volunteers for the Alliance for the Great Lakes picked up more than 18,000 balloons, balloon pieces or balloon strings along Great Lakes shorelines from 2016 to 2018, the Detroit Free Press reported.

READ MORE: Environmental group sounds alarm after 48 lbs of plastic found in dead whale

Lara O’Brien, who studies at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability, said that an Australian study published in March found balloons are the highest-risk plastic debris for seabirds.

“I’ve seen a lot of people come together, gather and celebrate graduations, weddings, other celebrations, and they release balloons — and don’t really consider the consequences when the balloons come down,” she said.

During an annual cleanup program, the Alliance for the Great Lakes found between 4,400 and 7,200 balloons or pieces of balloon debris on Great Lakes beaches each of the last three years. The variation in the numbers can most likely be attributed to the number of volunteers on a particular beach in a certain year, not less balloon waste, said group spokeswoman Jennifer Caddick.

“It’s really dramatic and troubling,” Caddick said. “It paints a picture of the bigger plastic pollution problem plaguing the Great Lakes, our oceans, and really the entire planet.”

Pamela Denmon, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist in Virginia, said balloons washed-up on the beach is a “huge problem.”

“We would do a necropsy on a bird or turtle or other marine mammal and it would have entangled balloon ribbon all throughout its guts,” Denmon said. She added that she encountered dead seabirds, hanging from power lines or choked around the neck by balloon strings.

Five states have passed legislation to limit or ban intentional releases: California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia. At least eight other state legislatures are considering such laws: Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Maine.

The Balloon Council, a New Jersey-based organization of balloon retailers, distributors and manufacturers, has spent more than $1 million nationwide lobbying to change or stop proposed laws to restrict balloons.

“We’ve never supported or sponsored any balloon releases,” council executive director Lorna O’Hara said. “We want people to continue to be able to use balloons, enjoy them, and then dispose of them properly.”

O’Hara said her group doesn’t oppose balloon release bans, but prefers educational programs that encourage putting all helium-filled balloons on weights and using biodegradable strings, or no attachments at all.

Christina Trapani, beach cleanup volunteer in Virginia, said she’s encouraged that the word is getting out on balloon litter, and behaviours are changing.

“The bottom line is, when you let go of a balloon, you’re littering,” she said. “You wouldn’t dump a bunch of uninflated balloons on the ground.”

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Second earthquake in two days strikes near Agassiz

A 2.6-magnitude recorded Saturday morning

Province bringing 421 new affordable childcare spaces to Fraser Valley

Supporting early childhood educators and creating spaces go hand in hand, minister says

Aspiring pot-sellers can apply in two weeks to operate stores in Abbotsford

City will accept applications to operate one of four new stores; public consultation to follow

Nine Abbotsford citizens fleeced for over $68,000 by bitcoin scammers

Police warn public about fraudsters who threaten arrest

Comic wins judgment after club owner slaps cellphone out of his hands

Incident happened last summer when Garrett Clark was performing in Abbotsford

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

People knowingly take fentanyl so make policy changes to reduce harm: B.C. study

Dr. Jane Buxton, an epidemiologist at the centre, says drug users need more resources,

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

UBC grad and sister killed in Iran plane crash had bright futures ahead, close friend says

Asadi-Lari siblings Mohammad Hussein and Zeynab were two of 57 Canadians aboard downed Flight PS752

Surrey tells Uber to cease operations in city, but company ‘respectfully’ declines

Ridesharing company told to stop operating within the city by 9 p.m. Jan. 24

Coronavirus concerns cause cancellation of Langley Lunar New Year celebration

Close to 1,000 were expected to attend the annual Live In Langley event on Saturday

Second earthquake in two days strikes near Agassiz

A 2.6-magnitude recorded Saturday morning

BCLC opens novelty bet on Harry and Meghan moving to the west coast

Meanwhile, real estate agency points to four possible homes for the family

Most Read