• info@wildcumberland.org
  • PO Box 872 Scottdale, GA 30079

Dangerous Balloons

Balloons have a special place in the memories of many; they are associated with Birthdays, whimsy, and fun. They’re tied to every grocery store check-out lane and used to draw attention to open houses, grand openings and all kinds of experiences.

Potentially Lethal

We’ve known for years that sea turtles can mistake deflated balloons for jellyfish. The shape, material, and colors resemble their favorite food when floating in the water: jellyfish! 

Consuming a balloon, however, can cause sea turtles (and other animals) to suffer internal blockages that can result in death.

The attached string or ribbon is equally dangerous. If the ribbon or string wraps around an animal, they can become trapped or unable to feed. These strings can also cut into their skin, leading to infections or even amputated appendages. 

Sargassum seaweed, which regularly appears on the shores of Cumberland Island, is often unintentionally woven into tight mats held together by ribbon or string.

What are balloons made of?

  • Latex – When you think of balloons you probably think of the classic latex balloon and latex is a natural material (sometimes). They take anywhere from six months to four years to break down.
  • Mylar – The material used to make shiny balloons is called mylar, which is made from plastic nylon sheets with a metallic coating and will never biodegrade.
  • Biodegradable Balloons – Biodegradable balloons can still take many years to decompose, by which time they could have caused serious harm, or death, to any number of animals.

What can you do?

First and foremost, choose safer alternatives when celebrating. These could include:

  • Write a message in the sand
  • Fabric flag bunting
  • Paper chains
  • Origami 
  • Fly kites
  • Blow bubbles
  • Float flowers on water
  • Plant a tree
  • Release ladybugs
  • Biodegradable confetti
  • Light a candle 

Advocate for including balloon releases in litter laws and banning balloon releases.  Hosting a party at a rented venue?  Encourage the venue to ban balloon releases for anyone celebrating at their property! Does your dentist give balloons to young patients? Ask them to consider an alternative and explain why!

Educate your friends and family about the hazards that balloons pose to wildlife and the environment.  Suggest some of our environmentally-friendly ways to celebrate other than a balloon release.  

Remove ribbons, strings, and balloons when you’re walking on the beaches of Cumberland Island — or anywhere in nature that you might encounter them.

If you do end up with a balloon, please make sure to pop it when you’re finished — and dispose of it properly. That includes removing the string or ribbon, cutting it up and putting it into an appropriate trash receptacle.

Send us your photos!

Document what you remove from Cumberland Island National Seashore.

Additional Resources