Jul 22, 2019 | Updated: 09:15 AM EDT

What Trendy Balloon Releases Do to the Planet

Jul 01, 2019 08:51 AM EDT

(Photo : Artturi Mäntysaari )

More than 18,000 balloons, balloon strings, and other balloon pieces were picked up along the Great Lakes shorelines in Detroit from 2016 to 2018. The environmental advocates are now raising awareness about the dangers of using balloons.

Lara O'Brien, from the University of Michigan's School for Environment and Sustainability, stated that on March, an Australian study was published and it has revealed that balloons are the highest risk plastic debris for seabirds. O'Brien stated that using balloons have been commonly used for gatherings and celebrations such as weddings and graduation where the celebrants would release balloons and watch them fly into the sky. However, the celebrants don't really consider the consequences when the balloons would come down.

Members from the Great Lakes alliance have found balloons or pieces of balloon debris amounting to 4400 pieces to 7200 pieces for the past three years during their annual cleanup program alone.

Jennifer Caddick, the group's spokeswoman stated that the variation in numbers is most likely attributed to the number of volunteers on a particular beach for the year. The lower number of plastic balloon debris does not mean that there is less balloon waste. Caddick pointed out that this finding is troubling as it paints a picture of the bigger plastic pollution problem that has been plaguing the Great Lakes, and the oceans of the entire planet.

Pamela Denmon, the US Fish, and Wildlife Service biologist from Virginia, stated that when balloons are washed up on the beach it becomes an even bigger problem. Denmon pointed out that whenever they do a necropsy on a bird, a turtle, or other marine mammals, most of the time, they would find and entangled balloon ribbon all throughout the animal's guts. She also pointed out that there had been findings of dead sea birds that have been choked around the neck by balloon strings.

Recently, California, Connecticut, Tennessee, Virginia, and Florida have passed legislation to ban or limit the retail of balloons. Other states are considering the same to implement such laws.

Lorna O'Hara, the executive director for The Balloon Council, a New Jersey-based organization of balloon retailers, distributors, and manufacturers, have stated that they have never supported or sponsored any balloon releases. O'Hara added that their council would prefer for people to continue enjoying and be able to use balloons as long as they dispose of them properly. The balloon council has spent more than $1 million nationwide in lobbying to change or stop proposed laws that restrict balloon use.

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