Public Comment

Smart Balloon Practices Are Better Than Bans

By Dan Flynn 
Thursday November 19, 2009 - 09:44:00 AM

The Berkeley City Council may soon consider a measure that would make balloon releases illegal at any public events that require a permit authorized by the city. This is an unwise action; the City Council’s objectives could be far better addressed through less extreme measures, including consumer education about smart balloon practices.  

The Balloon Council, a nationwide organization representing balloon manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers, is committed to this education.   

The Balloon Council has been informing consumers about smart balloon use for years and is now launching a revamped “Smart Balloon Practices” campaign. Balloon retailers at small card shops, gift stores, grocery stores, florists and other locations will soon be provided with consumer information sheets and other educational materials to make sure that their customers understand the smartest ways to use and enjoy balloons.  

Balloon releases can easily be executed in a responsible way and it is unnecessary to outlaw them, a move that would negatively impact small businesses in the area. It would be unwise, especially in today’s difficult economy, to place a needless burden on these companies.   

Smart balloon practices can make balloon release safe and fun.  

Only latex balloons should be used in mass releases and, as industry guidelines require, those balloons should be self-tied and have no attached strings or ribbons. In this way each released balloon is 100 percent biodegradable.  

Rarely do released balloons return to the earth’s surface intact. Studies show these balloons usually rise to an altitude of about five miles. At that point, freezing and air pressure cause “brittle fracture,” creating spaghetti-like pieces that scatter.  

While some balloons don’t reach this altitude, research indicates that in an average 500-balloon release, the unexploded-balloon-return density is no greater than one per 15 square miles.  

Research shows that, regardless of the latex balloon’s ultimate form, when it lands it will decompose, forming a natural soil nutrient at the same rate as a decomposing oak leaf. And extensive review of government and environmental databases show no direct scientific evidence that any sea animal has been harmed or killed by a latex balloon involved in a release.  

Consumers need to remember that care needs to be taken when using any product, including balloons. That’s why the Balloon Council is enhancing its education efforts with its recent campaign.  

Public education about the best ways to enjoy balloon releases is a far better way for the Berkeley City Council to accomplish its goals than by banning the wholesome enjoyment of balloons. 


Dan Flynn is the chairman of the Balloon Council, a trade group of manufacturers and retailers.