Here’s why balloon releases can be bad

CLEVELAND – It can be for a graduation celebration, a way to honor a loved one, or just a way to make a birthday wish; however, some urge people to think twice before organizing balloon releases.

Over the past week or so, News 5 has covered at least three events involving balloon releases. And as the weather warms, those with FirstEnergy told News 5 they will see more events like these crop up and that may mean more power outages.

According to FirstEnergy, the foil balloons caused more than 150 power outages in their service area last year, including two dozen in northeast Ohio.

“A lot of people just don’t realize that releasing them outdoors can cause significant damage to our electrical infrastructure,” said Lauren Siburkis of FirstEnergy.

Earlier this year, The Cleveland City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting the release of ten or more balloons at a time, following in the footsteps of other cities like Toledo.

Cleveland holds a special place in history when it comes to ball drops.

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Hot Air Balloon Festival ’86

In 1986, a world record attempt of 1.5 million balloons was released to infamy as an event intended to raise awareness, which instead caused all sorts of problems including littering the lake, temporarily closing the airport of Burke and make it harder for the Coast Guard to search for two missing boaters.

And from an environmental perspective, local animal rehabilitation center officials told News 5 that it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to save an animal such as a bird when it eats a balloon or attaches to it.

“Usually if there’s been a really big balloon release, that’s when we’ll see animals having trouble with balloons,” said Heather Merritt of Birds in Flight Sanctuary in Trumbull County. “You would have to do surgery to try to remove it or go in orally to remove it. Usually, if you have to do surgery to get them out, it’s usually not successful.

Between 2016 and 2018, more than 18,000 balloons or pieces of balloons were collected during Great Lakes Alliance beach cleanup events.

Balloon releases are impacting Lake Erie, expert says

Instead, those looking to do a balloon release are encouraged to look for other ways to celebrate, such as planting a tree, lighting candles safely, or releasing butterflies.

“Do you really want to commemorate someone by taking a life?” said Annette Piechowski of the Medina Raptor Center. “There are so many other viable things you can do that won’t affect the environment. Please don’t drop balloons at all costs.

RELATED: Cleveland City Council introduces legislation banning balloon releases