Round about this time of year, if you look among the tide lines on the beaches here, you begin to notice the balloons. Mylar or latex, they wash up with such regularity that in early summer they, and the colored ribbons with which they once were held down, are the dominant non-natural trash.
School graduations bring with them outdoor parties from which these helium-filled trifles escape. They rise until they burst in the atmosphere, then drift back to earth, many landing in the bay or ocean. There, they are sometimes eaten by sea creatures such as marine turtles, causing death in some circumstances. Equally significant but less well known, the Guardian newspaper reported earlier this year, some research facilities may soon have to reduce operations or close entirely because we are frittering away the world’s limited supplies of helium on party balloons.
Suffolk bans the intentional release of large quantities of helium balloons. A similar bill has been, ahem, floating around Albany. While it is pending, readers may want to think twice before buying helium balloons for their celebrations or, at the very least, make sure these balloons remain indoors to minimize the chance of their getting away.