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Del Mar to Consider Banning Balloons

Thanks to the activism of our Rise Above Plastics volunteers, the cities of Encinitas and Solana Beach have banned “the sale, use, and release of all balloons filled with a gas lighter than air.” 

Del Mar is following their lead and will discuss a draft ordinance to ban balloons during the City Council meeting scheduled for November 13th at 4:30pm. (Please be on the lookout for a detailed action alert that will be posted as soon as the agenda for the meeting is published.)

In the meantime, we extend our gratitude to the Del Mar staff members who drafted a strong balloon ban ordinance. We would also like to thank YOU, and all of the Surfrider Foundation San Diego community members who joined us to voice support for the balloon ordinances passed in Encinitas and Solana Beach. We appreciate that you understand the harmful impacts caused by lighter than air balloons and have supported our effort to eliminate them from the coastal environment. 

At this point, most people do realize that when accidentally or intentionally released, helium-filled balloons will eventually burst or deflate and will descend to Earth as harmful debris.

balloon collage(Burst latex balloons found on North County San Diego beaches.)

As ocean pollution, they can injure or kill shorebirds, marine mammals, and sea turtles, but they can also be caught by westerly winds and be blown all the way to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park where they may harm desert tortoises and other wildlife. 

Jar containing the contents of a sea lion rescued by the Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach

(Stomach contents of a sea lion that passed away at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach)

Environmental impacts to San Diego's coastal and desert regions aren’t the only reasons to consider banning helium-filled balloons. Mylar balloons conduct electricity, and when they contact power lines, they may cause power outages, and they can even spark wildfires. Sadly, Mylar balloons caused the 2013 Deer FIre which burned 11,429 acres and injured five people in Northern California. A startling video, taken by a resident of Long Beach who captured an explosion, highlights what can happen when Mylar balloons get caught on power lines.

Injuries to wildlife, explosions, power outages, and fires should be reason enough to ban mylar balloons, but we must also consider that helium is a non-renewable resource. Helium shortages have occurred in the past with potential impacts to healthcare, industry, science, and technology. Consequently, instead of filling party balloons with it, all helium should be reserved for essential purposes such as MRIs, respiratory treatments, high speed internet, and telecommunications.

IMG_1224(Valentine balloon bouquet found on North Ponto Beach in Carlsbad)

Fortunately, there are innumerable ways to celebrate more sustainably (and creatively), including making prayer flags out of scrap fabric or decorating with recycled paper flowers—and if balloons are a must, air-filled stick balloons can still be an option. For more information, including additional ideas for balloon-free celebrations, visit

For an interesting CBS News 8 segment about the Encinitas ban featuring Surfrider San Diego activist Mark O’Connor, please visit the link here.

Peppermint Narwhal Creative(Image: Peppermint Narwhal Creative)