Impacts of a Single Balloon

— Written By Dee Smith
en Español

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Did you know a balloon floating in the water looks just like a jellyfish?

Balloons are one of the many pieces of trash that can very easily be eliminated from our environment. Unfortunately balloons escape into the environment from car lots where they are attached to antennas advertising a sale, birthday balloons on a mailbox outside a home, or in memory of a loved one when balloons released are to the heavens, some balloons are even intentionally thrown on the ground.

Balloons on the beach

Balloons on the beach

Jellyfish are one of a sea turtle’s favorite meals and many other ocean dwellers often feast upon these gooey creatures. Many times balloons and plastic bags, both grocery and the sandwich type bags are confused for food. When the animal consumes the balloon it fills its digestive tract with the plastic or latex and it gives the animal the false feeling of being full. Thus making that animal starve to death.

Most if not all of these balloons have some sort of strings attached to them, whereas the balloon itself causes a health issue of its own, many other animals become entangled in the strings. The entanglement of these can also cause starvation due to the limitation of being bound by the strings. Many times birds are the most harmed by entanglement of balloon strings, but marine and terrestrial animals and reptiles are also harmed by these strings.

Young Sea Turtles Entangled, Photo By Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Young Sea Turtles Entangled, Photo By Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

You can help reduce the harmful impacts caused by balloons and strings in a few ways.

  1. Be aware of your balloons, make sure you hang on to them and not let them escape.
  2. Make sure that balloons are tightly secured if they are left outdoors with no chance of flyaway.
  3. Do not release mass quantities of balloons for special events.
  4. Educate others of the dangers of balloons to wildlife.
  5. Plan a cleanup in your area by contacting Carteret Big Sweep at NC State Extension, Carteret Office at 252-222-6352.