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Balloons - Delight or Danger?
I love balloons; they are so bright and colorful. A bouquet makes a delightful gift or decoration for a party. Balloon animals can bring a smile to anyone's face. Water balloon fights are a great way to spend a hot, sunny afternoon. Releasing a bunch of helium balloons into the sky to commemorate a special occasion is a beautiful sight.
There is another side.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has recommended that children under the age of eight must be closely supervised when in contact with latex balloons. There are many reasons for this:
* The latex of the balloon is fun to suck and chew on. It makes neat sounds and feels good in your teeth. However, if a child sucks on or chews an inflated balloon, it may pop and be aspirated into the child's airway. Because latex can easily conform to the shape of the airway, it is difficult to remove and easy for a child to suffocate and die.
* Children (and even adults) who have difficulty trying to blow up a balloon may accidentally suck the balloon down their airways when taking in a big breath.
* Accidental ingestion of uninflated balloons or pieces of balloons are the leading cause of suffocation death of all children's products.
Balloons are dangerous to wildlife and the environment:
* Mass balloon releases are a beautiful sight to behold floating through the sky. However, what comes up, must come down at some point. Balloons may travel for miles from the release point. Eventually they pop and the pieces come down as litter or worse. There are regulations in many states about mass balloon releases. Before considering this option for an event, check with the local government.
* Marine animals are particularly susceptible to latex balloon pieces that fall into the water. Easily resembling jellyfish, the pieces may be gobbled up by fish, turtles, dolphins and whales. If strings or ribbons are attached, these can wrap around sea life and choke them.
* Birds are attracted to the shiny balloon pieces and eat them, as well.
* Helium-filled balloons present another hazard. Yes, it is fun to breathe in a little helium from a balloon to make your voice sound cartoon-like. Breathing in too much helium, however, can deplete the body of oxygen too quickly and you could, at the least, pass out and at the worst, die. While helium-filled balloons do not present too much danger of this, having a helium tank available for "huffing" could be lethal in the wrong hands - namely, teenagers looking for a new way to get "high."
* Latex balloons are biodegradable BUT take about four years to "disappear." So, while pretty, uninflated or popped balloons are litter for at least a few years.
Mylar balloons are better. These shiny balloons are a synthetic metallized product that is more expensive but less of a hazard.
Latex balloons are fun. Using them safely and responsibly is the key.