Dangers of balloon releases and the law

Modified on Wed, 24 Aug 2022 at 05:58 PM

Releasing balloons into the atmosphere is a dangerous hazard to the environment and here is why. 


Foil balloons are created from a film made of plastic and metal and are not biodegradable.  These balloons are also not recyclable and must be disposed of properly in the garbage. 


Latex balloons and latex products are made of sap from the rubber tree, and this naturally occurring substance is 100% biodegradable. However, during the manufacturing process, other chemicals are added to the sap in order to manufacture the balloon, such as color pigments  


A latex balloon will eventually biodegrade because it breaks down when exposed to the elements of nature. It will take many, many years for it to decompose. These balloons are not recyclable and it is best to dispose of them in the garbage.  


TIP: Store your latex balloon in a cool, dark location to keep them as fresh as possible.

It is very important to make sure your balloons are weighted down and never released into the atmosphere because of the dangerous impact they have on the environment and animals. Latex balloons are especially hazardous to animals who think it's food and try to swallow or digest it. Balloon ribbons also get tangled around the animals and power lines creating power outages.


It is strongly advised not to release balloons that have ribbons or plastic attached to them– such as discs and clips–because they are choking hazards. Foil balloons are not typically used for balloon releases because they are more expensive, but releasing them is even more dangerous because they are not biodegradable.


The Balloon Council

The Balloon Council (TBC) is an organization of retailers, distributors, and manufacturers created to inform and educate individuals about balloons and proper balloon handling practices. TBC has balloon guidelines for children, youth, and adults that are written specifically for each age group but ultimately convey the same message and rules. 

The council works tirelessly to educate consumers on handling balloons properly, emphasize the importance of never releasing balloons outdoors, maintaining and nurturing the public’s positive view about balloons, and preventing future anti-balloon legislation attempts.


Balloon releases are typically used as a ceremonial event signifying the act of letting go. They are commonly used at funerals or memorials to remember a loved one who has passed away. They can also be used for celebrations, to create awareness, and for other purposes.


Please see How Foil Balloons Can Cause Power Outages for more information


Canadian Legislation



  • No person shall release or hand out helium-filled balloons within the limits of Yonge-Dundas Square.
  • No person shall release any type of balloon within any zoo.
  • In Toronto, it is illegal to release more than 10 helium balloons within 24 hours. 
  • In Toronto, no person shall release any balloons filled with lighter-than-air gases in a park.


American Legislation


  • Do not use metallic ribbon on any helium-filled balloon.
  • All foil balloons must be anchored to a weight that is heavy enough to hold down the balloon.
  • Each foil balloon needs its own individual weight. Do not group multiple balloons to one weight.
  • A statement warning consumers about the risk of balloons coming in contact with electrical power outlets must be affixed to the balloon.
  • Foil balloons cannot be released as part of a public or civic event, promotional activity or product advertisement.
  • Balloon laws do not apply to balloons used in government or scientific research.



  • No person should knowingly release ten or more balloons filled with helium within a twenty-four-hour period.



  • No person should knowingly release ten or more helium balloons within a twenty-four-hour period, except for governmental agencies.
  • All balloons must be deemed biodegradable by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and must be hand-tied with a knot.


Nantucket & Provincetown, Massachusetts 

  • No person shall sell or use any type of balloon inflated with helium (even if not being used for a balloon release).


New Hampshire 

  • No person shall release any type of balloon inflated with helium.


New York 

  • No person should knowingly release within a twenty-four-hour period 25 or more helium balloons outdoors, except for governmental scientific research or meteorological purposes.
  • Do not release balloons that are made from metalized nylon, metalized plastic, or any foil-like substance; or have any strings, ribbons, or other materials attached to them. 


Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina 

  • It is unlawful to release balloons on town property, beachfront and waters surrounding the town.



  • No person, including an officer, employee of the state or any political subdivision of the state, shall knowingly release into the atmosphere more than 25 balloons that are made of a non-biodegradable material or filled with helium except for weather balloons that are used for the purpose of carrying scientific instruments 



  • No person shall knowingly release, within a one-hour period, 50 or more balloons inflated with a substance lighter than air (helium/hydrogen).


Toledo, Ohio

  • No person should knowingly release within a twenty-four-hour period 10 or more helium balloons except for governmental scientific research or meteorological purposes.


Plymouth, UK

  • All balloon releases are banned to protect land and marine animals.


New South Wales, Australia

  • No person can release more than 20 helium-filled balloons at the same time.


Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia  

  • No person shall intentionally release helium balloons outdoors.



  • Balloon releases should always take place inside with air-filled balloons.
  • Other ways to remember loved ones or to celebrate a special occasion are virtual balloon releases, dove releases, floating flowers down moving water, planting trees, lighting candles, bubbles, kites, butterflies, etc.   


Interesting Facts

  • Balloon litter has steadily been decreasing because of increased education, mandatory warning labels, and disposal information on balloons and packaging.
  • There is a severe helium shortage and balloon releases are a waste of helium. 
  • On average, balloons burst in the sky at approximately 10 km before shattering into tiny little pieces.
  • Weather balloons can approximately rise up to 30 km.
  • Clemson University has ended its tradition of releasing balloons at football games.
  • Sea turtles mistake latex balloons for jellyfish and many dead turtles are found with latex balloons in their stomachs.
  • The Indy 500 still releases balloons on race day as tradition.


Please see the article: Are latex and/or foil balloons biodegradable? How do I dispose of it? 


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