It’s time for the war on balloons

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Once the party’s over, balloons become the leading cause of death for seabirds ingesting marine debris.

I understand, I know. Few things state “rain on a parade” as succinctly as the headline “It’s time for the war on balloons.”

Question: What kind of grumpy bah-humbugging curmudgeon would urge for depriving the masses of the pleasure of balloons?

Answer: Anyone who likes birds (and turtles and other marine animals ) and thinks they deserve to live.

There has been quite a bit of legislation creating rules for balloons — a few are directed at the havoc they could cause with power lines, others for their lethality to wildlife.

But now study brings new urgency to the issue: Balloons were discovered to be the number one marine debris risk of passing for seabirds, according to the University of Tasmania.

Led from IMAS-CSIRO PhD student Lauren Roman and published in the journal Scientific Reports, the analysis discovered while many of the debris ingested by seabirds is tough plastic, it is much less likely to kill compared to soft plastics for example balloons.

“Although soft plastics accounted for just 5 per cent of the items ingested they were responsible for more than 40 per cent of the mortalities,” states Roman. “Balloons or balloon fragments were the marine debris most likely to cause mortality, and they killed almost one in five of the seabirds that ingested them.”

“As similar research into plastic ingestion by sea turtles has found, it appears that while hard plastic fragments may pass quickly through the gut, soft plastics are more likely to become compacted and cause fatal obstructions,” Roman adds.

Seabirds have been the planet’s most endangered group of birds, with almost half of species experiencing population declines, and 28 percent compromised worldwide, notes the research. Presently, half the planet’s seabird species ingest marine debris.

Is a couple of hours of celebration decor or the quick few minutes of a balloon discharge value killing birds for? It is estimated that between 45 to 50 million balloons are offered in California independently annually. And it ends up as crap, often times littering the sea in snack-size bits that look like food to unwitting creatures.

“Among the birds we studied the leading cause of death was blockage of the gastrointestinal tract, followed by infections or other complications caused by gastrointestinal obstructions,” notes Roman, emphasizing that the soft plastic of balloons were more likely to trigger these obstructions.

Study co-author Dr. Chris Wilcox states that the study is “a critical step in triggering action to address plastic pollution.”

“Marine debris ingestion is now a globally recognized threat,” Roman says. “The evidence is clear that if we want to stop seabirds from dying from plastic ingestion we need to reduce or remove marine debris from their environment, particularly balloons.”

So there you have it. First we wish to remove your pickup trucks and burgers (notice: not actually ) and today we wish to remove your fireworks, glitter, and balloons. But rather than kvetching and holding on to habits and habits which will turn the world into a potentially inhospitable location, we should adopt the fact that we have the comprehension to fix our course here. And then observe it… without balloons.

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