A shiney mylar balloon caught in a bush near me and a boy rushed to free it.
The naiivity of this tradition baffles me.
No thought was given to where those balloons were going and what their impact might be when they get there.
The best-case scenario is visual pollution.
The worst case is dead marine life.
"Happy Birthday son, you've killed a baby whale."
An infant sperm whale met its death in New Jersey in 1985 as a result of ingestion of an inflated mylar balloon which had lodged in its intestines. Consequently, the whale died of starvation.*
On a recent whale watching tour off the coast of Santa Barbara where we were delighted with the visit of several blue whales and a pod of hundreds of dolphins, we found out where, oh so many of these balloons decide to land. So often they are blown out to sea where they finally rest on its surface, and from below, to the marine life, these party balloons resemble a major food type... jellyfish. It is here where these symbols of celebration turn deadly. I never really thought about where those balloons go, but I've seen many released and floating by. I never suspected they could kill whales, dolphins, and sea turtles. After exiting childhood, I viewed the floating balloons as thoughtless litter, not much more. Now I know that they are killers. I had no idea. **
It's not unusual for balloons to be eaten by whales, dolphins, turtles, and other marine life, who mistake them for food, such as jellyfish.
* Marine Conservation Society: http://www.ukrivers.net/balloon_fact.html
** Gulf Area Sea Paddlers: http://www.gasp-seakayak.net/balloons.html
US balloon companies have formed The Balloon Council to fight restrictive laws and argue for the relative safety of properly handled balloon releases. (Hmmm -- "relative safety")