PSA: Balloon Launches Are Catastrophic for Animals and the Environment

The blog has been quiet for several days, and I apologize for that, although it’s been for good reason. I spent the end of last week, the weekend, and all day Monday researching, writing, recording, and editing last week’s episode of Suffer the Little Children Podcast, which I feel was well worth it. Episode 15: Eduardo Posso is available now on your favorite podcast listening app (as well as YouTube).

I then spent the last day and a half deep in the weeds, researching a listener-suggested case that I’m going to feature on the blog this week as well as on next Tuesday’s episode of the podcast.

Disaster in the making.

In the meantime, I’m taking a break from that case today to cover a breaking case out of Texas that just came to a head yesterday with the discovery of a body and the arrest of a parent. While looking into that case, however, I saw that a massive balloon launch took place in memory of the murdered child, and as beautiful as it is to see a large number of people showing love and support for the victim, these rituals never cease to raise my hackles for completely unrelated but extremely important reasons.

The following is an excerpt from one of my previous articles.

While a balloon launch is always intended as a lovely memorial gesture, I wish more people were aware of what a danger balloons pose to wildlife and the environment.

A balloon being extracted from the throat of a Shearwater in Australia.

According to nonprofit organization Balloons Blow, balloons are the number one marine debris risk of mortality for seabirds. “Debris from balloons represents a danger, because animals may become entangled in ribbons preventing normal foraging activity. Animals also mistake balloon debris for food and ingest the material, which may block the stomach or intestines and lead to starvation.”

This Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle died with two latex balloons in its digestive tract.

On top of this, helium is a finite resource that is essential in many areas of science and technology, including cryogenics, MRI scanners, rockets, arc welding, ventilators, lasers, solar telescopes, deep sea exploration, gas chromatography, and many others. Production of helium, which is obtained during the process of extracting natural gas from the earth, is much slower than our current rate of consumption, and I don’t know about you guys, but I tend to think allowing sick people to breathe, diagnosing illness, and the dozens of other practical applications of helium should outweigh filling some single-use balloons and releasing them into the atmosphere. A much more sustainable alternative would be planting a tree, flower garden, or butterfly garden in remembrance.

Sky lanterns, though often marketed as “biodegradable” or “earth-friendly,” are actually neither. They’re nothing but flying trash and inevitably return to the earth as litter. They’re made with treated paper and wires (or bamboo). They’ve even caused huge structure fires and wildfires, caused burns to humans, and killed animals who ate them.

A paper lantern started a massive fire at a UK recycling plant in 2013. 3 firefighters were sent to hospital.

Blow bubbles. Plant flowers or trees. Get permission and paint a mural, or draw one with sidewalk chalk. Start a memorial fund or a foundation. Do something good in your loved one’s name. But don’t release a bevy of balloons into the environment to kill animals and cause more unnecessary pollution.

Visit for more photos, information, and sustainable alternatives to balloon launches, and please spread the word.


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