Wait, that’s illegal?

Don’t let go of those balloons, Jack!

More stories from Julia Van Allen

Seeking Solace
May 13, 2019

In the state of California, where mass-publicity stunts are the norm and party stores are a dime a dozen, it is illegal to let a bunch of those floating suckers fly.

According to the California Law Penal Code, under Chapter 2: Of Other and Miscellaneous Offenses, “(d) No person or group shall release, outdoors, balloons made of electrically conductive material and filled with a gas lighter than air, as part of a public or civic event, promotional activity, or product advertisement.”

This law will definitely put a damper on prospective parents’ gender reveal parties, memorial services and wedding celebrations statewide. Yikes. Californians will need to make due without massive balloon releases.

This law was created to curb the practice of releasing massive amounts of balloons, which can be harmful to the environment and our furry friends. Animals mistake the deflated balloons for food, which could end up blocking their digestive tracts and starving, choking or killing them.

Bit of a bummer for Bambi, huh?

Mylar helium balloons are illegal to release in most states because of the danger they pose to powerlines. Mylar balloons are metallic in nature and can cause some serious issues if they collide with power lines. Sparks will fly. These balloons cause havoc, whether it be harming the environment with materials that don’t decompose quickly or safely, damaging power lines or killing wildlife.  

Although this law dashes my dream of buying a small house in California and lifting it up, up and away Pixar style and taking it to Hawai’i, it’s important to think of the environment around us.

Sure, watching balloons float up into the sky is a satisfying and delightful experience. Believe me, I love seeing it as much as anyone else. But we have to think of what’s going to happen once that balloon inevitably deflates. Where will it end up? Which little furry or feathered friend will spy this colorful balloon and think it has found its next meal?

Foil helium balloons don’t biodegrade, so those artsy balloon photos on Instagram do not bode well for the environment. Think before you purchase one of these balloons, because you can’t just get rid of it. Do your research before buying to know how to dispose of them. Or choose biodegradable balloons filled with air, not helium. Those exist!

Now, you may be asking what the California government could actually do in response to someone who does decide to release 50 balloons into the wild. As always, there are ramifications for breaking a law.

“(e) Any person who violates subdivision (a), (b), (c), or (d) shall be guilty of an infraction punishable by a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars ($100). Any person who violates subdivision (a), (b), (c), or (d) who has been previously convicted twice of violating subdivision (a), (b), (c), or (d) shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Basically, don’t let the balloons fly and definitely don’t do it more than once. Hold on to your balloons – especially if there are a large number of them.

Van Allen can be reached at [email protected].