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The Animal Science Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about scientific and technological topics related to pets, livestock, and other animals. See how cutting-edge advances help - or hinder - species around the world.

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Balloons—Celebratory, But Wreak Havoc On The Environment

Posted November 10, 2016 12:00 PM by lmno24

Most things that are manufactured have an intended use, even if disposable. Balloons, however, are created with the intention of being thrown out, released into the sky, or worse. It would seem most are not kept for more than a few hours, or they linger around until the helium inside decays and then they’re thrown out.

It’s almost a mockery of what’s emblazoned on most of them—“Congrats,” “Happy Birthday,” “Welcome Home”—that they end up killing our ecosystems.

Balloons not only possess a hazard to animals when eaten, but the ribbons and strings attached can cause dolphins, fish, whales, and turtles to become tangled and ultimately die. Many marine animals mistake balloons, both Mylar® and latex, for jellyfish—a popular snack.

In fact, when latex balloons fly high enough, they pop in such a way that leaves them looking like they have several tentacles and float through the water almost exactly like a jellyfish does. The resemblance is almost uncanny.

Bighorn sheep in parts of southern California are impacted by balloons too, among other mammals. They have four-chambered stomachs and do not chew their food completely as they eat; meaning pieces often get trapped in their systems during the digestion process. A study found sheep deceased with balloon strings hanging from their mouths and within their digestive tracts.

From: http://balloonsblow.org

These party favors also have a significant impact on the environment. Balloon release parties are often an honorary event in which people release a cluster of balloons to honor someone who has died or even in celebration of happier events, like a wedding or graduation. Once released, they travel thousands of feet into the sky.

The real damage is done when they make it back to the ground, though. Latex balloons do break down over time, but Mylar balloons pose a more serious risk. They’ve been marked as non-biodegradable and are made from metalized polyester, which is harmful both in production and in disposal. The National Association of Balloon Artists and Suppliers has spoken about the impact of Mylar balloons specifically. In a series of recommendations, the organization warns against using Mylars at all, while offering some safety tips to make latex balloons as minimally harmful as possible.

While they may be colorful and fun, the impact of these floating favors is serious. They are a danger to our animals and our ecosystems. Perhaps the next time you plan a party, consider a more sustainable way to showcase the celebration.

More Sources:

http://www.longisland.com/articles/06-20-13/the-truth-about-balloons-after-they-fly-away.html?print=1

http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/balloon-releases827.html#cr


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#1

Re: Balloons—Celebratory, But Wreak Havoc On The Environment

11/11/2016 8:27 AM

Don't need to tell me. I ride my bike in the woods at least 4 times per week, and I often see balloons hanging in the trees, and on the ground. Somehow they always manage to get to the floor of the woods eventually. Doesn't take too many smarts to realize that can't be good.

Just saw a commercial the other day where a lot of balloons are launched in a city - I only hope that was an effect added by animation. I thought we had this as a "cause celebre" at least 10 years ago. Apparently it hasn't hit us hard enough yet.

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#2

Re: Balloons—Celebratory, But Wreak Havoc On The Environment

11/11/2016 9:20 AM

Gagging sea turtles was bad enough, but now with aluminum foil party steamers, a photo-rotted balloon dropped a steamer across the power line in an easement on my property, shorting just enough to ignite, apparently, the remnants of the balloon and start a wild fire in the thatch below the power line. What a mess!

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#3

Re: Balloons—Celebratory, But Wreak Havoc On The Environment

11/11/2016 10:57 AM

When I was a kid, I had wondered if balloons could be constructed using a wheat fiber mesh shell, covered with a glutinous rice coating, then colored with a vegetable dye.

The idea for this had come from eating Japanese botan candy and building balsa wood airplanes.

I noticed that I would cover the wings in tissue paper, ( which was very light, but had a rough surface ) afterwards I had to paint the wings with dope, which made the wings heavier. I had thought if I could cover the wings with colored rice paper, then I could have a lightweight wing with a smooth surface. I did not know where to source colored rice paper sheets.

My wife likes to eat a food called, " spring roll " . It is made using rice paper that is shaped like a tortilla, she dips a sheet in water to soften it, which makes it very pliable, when it dries, it will again become hard and rigid, each sheet is very light in weight.

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