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Balloons and the Environment

This is a controversial topic today and there are radicals on both sides that have their own opinions.  This is the facts as a balloon professional is the correct information and has been supported by research.  This information was produced by the Sydney NSW QBN Chapter Inc.  All contributors are professional balloon artists in Australia.

Where do balloons come from?

ID-100134617 (1)To start with I thought I would explain how balloons are made.  Latex balloons are made of natural latex.  Latex is the milky sap of the rubber tree (hevea brasilensis) which grows in tropical regions of the world such as East India, Brazil, Malaysia and Guatemala.

Each of these trees lives for about 35 year and produces enough sap for three 25 cm balloons daily.

The continuing demand for latex balloons ensures the survival of the rubber tree and provides economic incentive for planting (instead of cutting down) these trees.

The process of gathering latex sap can be likened to the gathering of maple sap from a Canadian maple tree for the production of maple syrup.

What happens to helium filled balloons when you let them go?

About 95% will rise to 28,000 feet where the air is thin and very cold.  The cold temperature causes the latex to become brittle.  Thin air causes the balloons to expand and shatter into tiny pieces.

The remaining 5% of released balloons, that do not rise high enough to shatter, drift with the wind currents for approximately 8 to 14 hours before coming own.  They then revert to sap in as little as 4 to 8 weeks, depending upon environmental conditions.  A study has shown that a latex balloon will break down a quickly as an oak leaf.

Why do latex balloons decompose at a rapid rate?

Latex balloons are made from a naturally occurring substance and they have a very large surface area in relation to their mass.

Balloons begin to decompose within one hour of inflation.  Perhaps you have noticed a shiny inflated balloon become velvety within a short period of time.  This is evidence of the first stage of decomposition.

Do balloons harm animals?

A healthy animal will not normally choose to eat a latex balloon.  Studies have shown that even small animal can easily pass an ingested latex balloon.

What is a safe balloon release?

Released balloons should be latex, and hand knotted with no ribbon, string, fishing line or plastic hardware attached.

Balloon releases are very beautiful and if done properly are environmentally safe.  By allowing only environmentally safe releases, concerned people and businesses can ensure that balloons will continue to be part of all festive celebrations.

What to do and not to do?

NEVER RELEASE A FOIL BALLOON into the air as they will not break down and will cause environmental damage.  ALWAYS use good quality helium latex balloons as they will be made from pure latex without any horrible chemicals in them.