Impacts on Wildlife & the Environment

Balloons kill wildlife.

"Biodegradable" Latex Balloons in Hawksbill sea turtle

Photo: Lance Ferris

Balloons removed from inside Hawksbill sea turtle in August 2011

Beach litter surveys have shown the amount of balloons and balloon pieces found on the beach have tripled in the past 10 years. We’ve witnessed this increase firsthand, cleaning the beaches since we were little children in the early ’90s, we would rarely find them back then.

Rusty Blackbird found dead – entangled in balloon ribbon

Photo: David E. Gurniewicz

This Rusty Blackbird, a vulnerable species, was found dead – entangled in balloon ribbon. 

While some balloons burst, others just gradually deflate. But they all fall back down to Earth where they can wreak havoc on wildlife on land, sea, and air. The proof is in the photo gallery.

Ram strangled on ribbons

Bighorn sheep are known to mistake latex balloons as nutrient-rich foliage. The latex & ribbons block the digestive track. Outdoor California, 2010

Dolphins, whales, turtles, and many other marine species, as well as terrestrial animals such as cows, dogs, sheep, tortoises, birds and other animals have all been hurt or killed by balloons. The animal is usually killed from the balloon blocking its digestive tract, leaving them unable to take in any more nutrients. It slowly starves to death. The animals can also become entangled in the balloon and its ribbon making the animal unable to move or eat.

Photo: Rod Penrose, Marine Environmental Monitoring, UK CSIP

Fragments of a blue latex balloon found in the stomach of green turtle stranded dead near Blackpool, UK.

Sea turtles are particularly at risk because they naturally prey on jellies, which balloons can easily be mistaken for, even with human eyes.

Balloons can take years to break down, even the so-called “biodegradable” latex ones. This gives plenty of time for it to travel and encounter many animals that may mistake it for a tasty snack, or accidentally get entangled in it.

Shearwater likely starved by latex balloon

Photo: Lauren Roman

“More orange balloon in another shearwater’s proventriculus. Often I find undigested food in the esophagus of birds with balloons in their proventriculus, and I suspect the balloons is blocking the passage of food and causing them to starve.”

Some states and countries have enacted laws regarding the release of balloons. The Balloon Council, and other balloon industry entities, spend millions of dollars lobbying to keep balloon releases legal. This multi-billion dollar industry encourages consumers to litter with their product. Releasing balloons should be included in already existing litter laws, after all, it’s simply littering. Check out balloon laws to learn more and find out how to help.

Screech Owl hanging by its wing in a balloon string died

Photo: D. Sauvageau

This young Screech Owl was found in Pinellas County, Florida, hanging by its wing, for who knows how long, at Sawgrass Park. They were able to get a ladder, cut him down and bring him to a sanctuary, but sadly this bird didn’t make it.