NATURE NOTES: Balloons: What Goes Up Must Come Down

A balloon found on Quintana Beach could pose a risk to wildlife.

In the minds of many Americans, helium balloons are associated with freedom and lightheartedness. Balloon releases are common parts of parties, openings and even memorial services. People like to imagine them floating away on the wind high up into the clouds. What they might not think about is what happens afterward.

What goes up must come down, and the balloons we release come down as litter. Many of these balloons make it all the way to the ocean before they touch down in a deflated mass. These balloons join the oodles of other ocean pollutants, but they stand out among the garbage for a number of reasons.

Celeste Silling is Education and Outreach Manager at the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory. The GCBO is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving the birds and their habitats. For information, visit

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