No doubt about it, seeing the sky fill with colorful, helium-filled balloons can be an exciting and even breathtaking sight. But balloon releases also have a serious downside, and many municipalities are enacting legislation to limit or ban the practice.
Up, up and away
Balloons are often seen as fun, harmless decorations. Releases of large numbers of balloons are regularly used to celebrate weddings, graduations, sporting events, and other monumental occasions. They’ve also been used in prayer and memorial ceremonies. It can be uplifting to see the sky fill up with the brightly colored, lighter-than-air, eye-catchers.
But once the beautiful moment is over, that’s when the problems with balloon releases begin.
Like a lead balloon
What goes up must come down. And when the balloons begin to fall out of the sky, they become an environmental hazard.
Balloons that are filled with helium – which is a finite and rapidly diminishing resource – can travel hundreds, even thousands of miles. When they land, they may slowly degrade – or not degrade at all – as litter on beaches, in rivers, lakes and other natural areas.
Studies have also found that balloons made of Mylar™ and latex are a significant threat to wildlife, livestock, and pets. Injuries and even death can occur from eating balloon fragments and getting tangled in long balloon ribbons or strings.
As balloons drop they can also come in contact with power lines or circuit breakers causing outages.
Deflating the risk
As the many hazards of intentional balloon releases has become evident, several states have passed legislation to ban or limit this activity. California, Connecticut, Florida, and Tennessee were the first to do so. Within the past few years, Maine, Maryland, and Virginia have followed suit. But a majority of states have not taken legislative action yet and it falls to municipal governments to enact ordinances to restrict or prohibit large-scale balloon releases.
Popping balloon releases at the local level
Municipalities that are adopting restrictive or prohibiting balloon release ordinances generally include the following in their legislation:
- Limit on the number of balloons being released
- Restricting releases to indoor locations
- Exceptions for governmental or scientific use
- Violations and penalties
- Description of prohibited balloon material
- Restrictions or prohibition of helium or lighter-than-air gas balloons
Useful examples of balloon releases legislation from the eCode360® Library
If your community is interested in legislating or updating ordinances to regulate or ban intentional balloon releases, here are some useful examples that can be found in our eCode360 Library:
Looking for something else? Search the eCode360 library for the topics and terms you’re specifically looking for.
Updating your municipal code is vitally important
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- Balloon release (Wikipedia)
- Why The Balloon Release Tradition Is Terrible For The Environment
- How to Plan an Eco-Friendly Balloon Release Memorial
- Intentional Balloon Releases Banned in Maryland
- 5 Reasons You Should Never Release Balloons into the Air
- Balloon Releases Have Deadly Consequences – We’re Helping Citizen Scientists Map Them
- What goes up can kill wildlife: Reminders about the dangers of balloon releases
- Large balloon releases banned by Cleveland City Council, citing ‘danger and nuisance’ to environment and public safety
- Indy 500 Balloon Release Opposition
- Balloon-release bans benefit birds, other wildlife
- eCode360 Library