Marooned Balloons

  • Published
  • By Tracy Mullins
  • 14th Civil Engineer Squadron

During a recent routine stormwater inspection, near the north end of the flightline, a Mylar birthday balloon was found in the drainage area. Balloons that find their way to the outdoor environment pose risks to birds and aquatic animals; not to mention the potential danger to aircraft engines.

Neither Mylar nor latex balloons are bio-degradable. When a balloon is released either intentionally or accidentally, it will eventually fall to Earth as litter; often many miles away from the point of release. Some will fall completely intact, and others will burst into small pieces. All scenarios pose risks to wildlife. Balloons and balloon pieces are often mistaken for food by terrestrial and aquatic animals. Once ingested, the balloon blocks the digestive tract making it impossible to take in nutrients, and the animal eventually starves to death. Another hazard of balloons are the strings attached to them. Balloon strings easily entangle birds and other wildlife causing them to become trapped or strangled until they die.

Balloons are released for many different reasons and occasions; weddings, birthdays, sports events, memorials, fund raisers, advertisement, accidentally, etc. Here are some steps you can take to avoid an accidental release, and alternatives to intentional releases.

Avoiding Accidental Release
• Never tie balloons to mailboxes, trees, etc.
• Never let a child hold a balloon while outside
• Always ensure strings are secured before transporting
• Always deflate balloons after use, and place in closed trash bin

Balloon Alternatives
• Kites
• Flags
• Bubbles
• Flowers
• Candles
• Plant a tree
• Native Butterflies