Experts say balloon releases may be for good intentions, but the celebration creates risks

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Before you release celebratory balloons in the sky, experts say it’s important to know the environmental impact and danger left behind.

Whether it’s honoring a loved one or celebrating a special occasion, releasing balloons has a become a way to mark an important day, but experts say what goes up must come down.

“That plastic, or that Mylar, or that rubber, does not break down when it goes out of your hands. So those balloons are going up and then they’re coming down somewhere eventually,” said Kristi Shoemaker, chief naturalist at Forest Park Nature Center

The material used to create balloons poses a serious risk to animals on the ground and especially fish.

“They can really look like something edible to a fish or aquatic animal and that animal would then eat the balloon and that can become stuck in their guts,” Shoemaker said.

Due to the ability to conduct electricity, staff with Ameren Illinois say Mylar balloons can cause outages if they become entangled with power lines.

“When people lose control of those balloons and they come into contact with our lines, it can cause significant outages to our customers. It can cause a flashover and cause our equipment to fail,” said Kevin Young with Ameren Illinois.

As you plan for your next big celebration, Shoemaker suggests trying alternatives.

“Maybe blowing bubbles to kind of get the same feel as sending a message up but without the environmental impact. So there’s lots of ways you can get creative,” she said.

Earlier this year, House Bill 418 was introduced, which would make it illegal to release 50 or more balloons in Illinois. The bill did not become a law during the most recent legislative session.

Due to the environmental impact, the Peoria Park District has banned balloon releases on their properties.

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