Balloons removed from inside Hawksbill sea turtle in August 2011 Photo: Lance Ferris
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.
This Rusty Blackbird, a vulnerable species, was found dead – entangled in balloon ribbon. Photo: David E. Gurniewicz
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.
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.
Fragments of a blue latex balloon found in the stomach of green turtle stranded dead near Blackpool, UK. Photo: Rod Penrose, Marine Environmental Monitoring, UK CSIP
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.
“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.” Photo by: Lauren Roman
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 exsisting litter laws, after all, it’s simply littering. Check out balloon laws to learn more and find out how to help.