This type of event is associated with noble causes or common good: national celebrations, commemorations of deceased people, awareness of diseases, celebrations, political events, among other reasons. However, the effects and impact on the fauna and the general environment are unknown.
A balloon with helium, in certain meteorological conditions, can rise up to 10 km in height, travel for 24 hours, and travel up to 3000 km in distance. Therefore, balloons have a very wide scattering radius that makes their final destination unpredictable. Considering that about 70% of the planet's surface is covered by water,the probability that the balloons end up in bodies of water such as lagoons, lakes, rivers or in the sea is very high, even if they are released in a city. For the same reason, they can easily cross the boundaries of municipalities, provinces and even reach a neighboring country.
In short, the fleeting moment of visual joy generated by a release of balloons brings a contribution to the accumulation of waste, which can be a nuisance for other citizens or a pathology for a wild animal.
Impact and risk on native fauna
Marine animals, including fish, reptiles, birds and mammals, are especially sensitive to this problem.An emblematic case is that of sea turtles, a group of animals of which all their representatives are under some degree of extinction risk, and where the problem of garbage generated by, among other factors, balloons, has been duly studied and documented by different conservation centers. Turtles easily mistake deflated balloons for the jellyfish, fish, and algae that are part of their diet.
The plastic lodged in the digestive tract of a turtle can end up causing an intestinal obstruction, which damages the mucosa and alters its normal functionality, making it difficult to float: a gas-filled intestine, without the possibility of evacuating regularly, becomes a "life jacket ”Which makes it impossible for the turtles to dive to move, flee from their predators and feed normally. This weakens them and ultimately leads to their death after slow agony.
The plastic inside a turtle can also affect its migration to warmer waters, without being able to escape in time from the low winter temperatures of the Buenos Aires coast, causing a fatal picture of hypothermia. On the other hand, when the amount of garbage in the intestine of the turtle exceeds the food in volume, it is difficult for them to gain nutrients, which interferes with their body growth and reproduction, seriously affecting the conservation of these animals.
On the other hand, loose balloons almost always fly accompanied by fastening strips or tapes, which once on land or water, also take the lives of numerous animals by hooking on wings, legs or fins, restricting or preventing the search for food and mobility and with it, escape from predators or disturbances.
Promotion of alternative actions to the release of balloons
We try to encourage other types of actions that, instead of generating a negative impact on the environment, contribute to improving it. These include, for example, the planting of native trees in public spaces, or the distribution of seeds.
There are numerous antecedents in the world of regulations that prevent the deliberate release of helium balloons as a celebration or to raise awareness and draw attention to an issue. We recently welcomed the news of the presentation of the bill in the Buenos Aires legislature by the Environmental Protection Agency (APrA) that aims to address this problem.
Carolina Martínez | communication Department
M (+54 9 11) 5701-4955 | T (+54 11) 4331-3631 ext. 136/146
The Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina is a non-governmental, public good and non-profit organization, created in 1977. Its mission is to propose and implement solutions to conserve nature, promote the sustainable use of natural resources and responsible behavior in a climate change context. Since 1988 it has been associated with and represents WWF in Argentina, one of the largest independent conservation organizations in the world, present in 100 countries.