LETTER

Environmental impact of helium balloons

Posted 1/14/21

To the Editor: I have the good fortune to work in the forests and fields of southern New England as a wetland scientist, and I get to enjoy some wonderful sights nature has to offer here. Unfortunately, there is another sight I encounter every time I

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LETTER

Environmental impact of helium balloons

Posted

To the Editor:

I have the good fortune to work in the forests and fields of southern New England as a wetland scientist, and I get to enjoy some wonderful sights nature has to offer here. Unfortunately, there is another sight I encounter every time I step into woods: the remains of helium balloons.

Helium balloons when released must end up somewhere, and they carry an environmental impact with them. Latex balloons, although biodegradable, can contain chemicals harmful to fish and wildlife. Mylar balloons do not biodegrade and last for years. Wildlife can confuse these items for food, and the loss of a single animal in a small area can have surprising consequences, especially if repeated nearby.

It may seem New England has a lot of forest left, but this is regularly interrupted by corridors of human activity. This means that little impacts on these fragmented habitats, like our balloons, can have a big impact overall on that small slice of forest. All other trash I find is contained to the roadside; it is the balloon’s ability to float to any corner of the forest that makes it stand out.

Now do I think balloons are single-handedly destroying the planet? No. Do I think we should ban helium balloons? No. I have kids, and there was a helium balloon in my house two weeks ago. We have some simple rules; only for birthdays, only one, they are not allowed outside, and they go in the trash when done. You don’t need my rules, we just all need to be a little more thoughtful at that next party (when it finally happens) to make a visible improvement to the land we live on, not to mention where the wind blows beyond.

Hugh Webb

Warwick

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