Balloons-R-Fun Inc.
5670 Production Way,  Langley BC Canada
Phone (604)534-8844

Informational Facts

Balloon History

Balloons—in one form or another—have been around for centuries. But the modern latex balloon—the kind you can blow up yourself—was invented in New England during the Great Depression.

A chemical engineer, frustrated in his attempts to make inner tubes from this new product—liquid latex—scrawled a cat’s head on a piece of cardboard and dipped it in the latex. When it dried, Neil Tillotson had a “cat balloon,” complete with ears. He made about 2,000 balloons and sold them on the street during Boston’s annual Patriot Day parade.

In the late 1970s, silver metalized balloons were developed for the New York City Ballet. These balloons are commonly called Mylar, but they are actually made from a metalized nylon and are more expensive than latex balloons.

Making Latex for Balloons

Latex balloons are produced from the milky sap of the rubber tree, Hevea brasilliensis. The rubber tree originated in the tropical forests of South America and was taken to Europe from Brazil. It is now grown on plantations in many tropical countries. The latex is collected in buckets, as it drips from harmless cuts in the bark. The process is much like that used to collect maple syrup. The use of latex balloons and other products, such as surgical gloves, make rubber trees economically valuable, which discourages people from cutting them down.

Using Foil Balloons after They Lose Their Helium

Some consumers find the designs so neat that they frame them and use in children’s or recreational rooms. They also make creative wrappings for small-sized gifts.

Balloons-R-Fun Inc encourages our customers to use and promote

the following smart balloon practices.

• Keep helium-filled balloons secured to a weight. A helium-filled balloon should be tied securely to a weight to keep it from releasing into the air.

• Never release foil balloons into the air. When your party or celebration has concluded, pop the balloons and dispose of them properly. Although extremely rare, an escaped foil balloon could cause problems if entangled in power lines. Foil balloons can also become litter if not disposed of properly.

• Keep deflated or popped latex balloons away from small children to avoid risks of choking. Children under 8 years can choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons; adults should always supervise young children with balloons.

Additional information regarding smart balloon practices and
other important topics can be found online at and

Latex Allergies & Understanding Who's At Risk

Latex allergies present a moderate to serious health problem for a small percentage of the population. Unfortunately, public communications of the latex allergy facts often are mishandled and misleading, causing unnecessary alarm and controversy about latex balloons among the majority of us.

However, the public can rest assured— they’ll not find the lovable latex balloon anywhere near the heart of the latex allergy problem. Here’s the situation:

Small Percentage of Population At Risk

Latex is the milky sap produced by rubber trees. Like many other natural things — bee sting venom, poison ivy, peanuts — latex can cause allergy problems ranging from minor skin irritation to reactions so severe that immediate emergency medical treatment is required to prevent death.

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, 94 percent of us probably will never have an allergic (anaphylactic) reaction to latex balloons.

Oddly enough, those most at risk of having an allergic reaction to latex are found in hospitals — doctors, nurses and certain patients.

Old Problem or New?

Although first developed in the middle 1800s, latex didn’t become widely used until the early 1940s. But, it took almost four decades before allergic reactions started appearing and causing problems.

The first latex allergy report occurred in Great Britain in 1979 — a woman’s reaction to household rubber gloves. Only 50 documented cases were reported in Europe over the next nine years.

Late in 1989, the FDA started receiving reports of patients going into allergic shock during radiological examinations. In each case, the culprit proved to be invasive diagnostic and treatment equipment which used latex components that came into contact with patients for a long period of time. The latex components were universally replaced.

Then, between 1990 and 1991, severe allergic reactions erupted in some 84 children at 25 pediatric hospitals and eight required intensive care. Fortunately none died. These children had either spina bifida or conditions involving the genitourinary tract. According to Dr. Michele Pearson, an epidemiologist with the National Centers for Disease Control, all these children had been exposed to anesthesia equipment and intravenous catheters that incorporated latex parts which came in close constant contact with skin. The FDA subsequently issued an urgent alarm nationwide to 1,000 health care leaders in March 1991.

1991 also saw rapidly increasing incidents of allergic reactions reported among doctors, dentists, nurses and health care technicians.

Latex has been used widely in everyday items for decades. What was happening to cause this hyper sensitivity and why so many incidents so suddenly? To date, no concrete conclusions have been reached, but two situations occurred almost simultaneously which may have helped initiate the problem:

  1. During the early 1980s, AIDS cases were accelerating at an alarming rate. The health care industry came to realize exactly how this disease could be transmitted — especially to doctors, dentists, nurses and technicians treating these patients. In 1991, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandated that all health care workers must wear protective surgical gloves while caring for all patients. Because of its superior barrier and sensitivity properties latex is the material of choice throughout the health care industry — latex glove use jumped from 2.5 billion in 1985 to more than 15.4 billion by 1995. Consequently, health care workers (especially emergency care workers) are wearing latex gloves more often and for much longer periods of time — causing existing sensitivities to surface, or creating new antibodies. The problem is made worse because wearers are aggressive in removing gloves, spreading the powder inside which carries latex molecules.
  2. Another possible contributing factor to the hyper-sensitivity is that latex manufacturers may not have been allotting enough time on the production line for a complete and thorough washing which will remove many of latex’s allergy-triggering proteins. Although the FDA has no concrete evidence of this, the agency now requires all latex glove manufacturers to follow a stringent two-step washing procedure.

Today, health care experts estimate that one to six percent of the general population is sensitive to latex — comparable to the rate for bee venom, peanuts, grass and animal hair.

However, within the health care industry population segment there is a dramatic surge above the norm with sensitivity rates ranging from 8 to 14 percent. The highest at-risk population segment is children with spina bifida who have an exorbitantly high sensitivity rate of 25 percent.

An Equally Enjoyable, No-Risk Option

While the balloon industry is cooperating with the health care industry on this issue, patients — especially children — aren’t losing out on the joy and entertainment balloons bring to a hospital room. Since the late 1970s, the balloon industry and its retailers have been providing synthetic, metallized balloons — commonly known as mylar — that offer a wide range of festive colors, unique shapes and messages that make people feel good.

An Interesting Side Note

Ansell Perry Healthcare, the foremost international maker of latex surgical gloves, is a direct corporate descendent of one of the nation’s first major balloon manufacturers. The company — through a program called AnsellCares — is underwriting an aggressive, leading-edge, scientific research to isolate and eliminate the health care industry’s latex allergy problem.

The balloon industry is intent on providing products that are fun and safe for everyone and don’t conflict with the environment. Industry leaders recognize they have obligations to set industry operating standards that will help protect and preserve the environment, and provide consumers with information that will encourage them to use the product safely and responsibly and dispose of it properly.

Balloon Litter: A Disintegrating Issue

The balloon industry operates with an eye on the environment. Manufacturers try to ensure both the organic materials harvested and the production processes are environmentally sound. Retailers — mostly family-owned and operated small businesses — try to ensure their products are handled properly by informed consumers. The industry’s efforts are paying off.

According to the annual International Coastal Cleanup report prepared by the Center for Marine Conservation, balloon litter on the nation’s riverbanks and beaches has been steadily declining since 1993. However, in spite of this consistent downward trend, there have been ongoing claims and assertions that balloons, especially those used in releases, are a major source of litter in these areas.

Is balloon litter really a significant ecological issue? Let’s examine the facts.

Balloon Construction

Two distinctly different types of balloons are manufactured and sold in America today — latex and mylar.

Latex balloons are produced from the sap of the rubber tree. It is collected without harming the tree by using an environmentally safe, age-old process similar to that used for collecting the sap from maple trees for syrup. Because of rubber’s versatility and demand, these tropical rain forest trees are very valuable, highly coveted — and well-protected natural resources. These precious trees play an equally valuable ecological role in the earth’s fragile ecological balance by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which helps prevent global warming.

A latex balloon is made from 100 percent organic material and it’s 100 percent biodegradable. Stress caused by inflation starts this decomposition cycle. Exposure to sunlight accelerates the process — oxygen and ozone continue the molecular attack even in the dark. Deterioration is clearly evident within a few hours — it begins to oxidize or “frost” — and soon the balloon will break apart. Research has shown that under similar conditions latex decomposes as quickly as an oak leaf.
The second type of balloon sold in the United States is commonly — but incorrectly — called mylar. It’s made from a metallized nylon (plastic) that is not biodegradable. Better known as silver balloons, they are much more expensive than their latex cousins and are never used in balloon releases.

Balloon Releases - Unjustified Concern

Mass balloon releases come under fire from misinformed critics who inaccurately claim releases generate a major source of litter and threaten the ecology. While anecdotal, subjective “evidence” is usually cited to support these assertions, corroborating factual data is rarely presented.

Important facts you should know about latex balloon releases:

  1. Only latex balloons are used by professionals in mass releases. Industry guidelines require these balloons to be self-tied and have no attached strings or ribbons — each released balloon is 100 percent biodegradable.
  2. Rarely do released balloons return to the earth’s surface intact. Studies show these balloons usually rise to an altitude of about five miles. At that point, freezing and air pressure causes “brittle fracture” creating spaghetti-like pieces that scatter to the four winds.
  3. While some balloons don’t reach this altitude, research indicates that in an average 500-balloon release, the unexploded balloon return density is no greater than one per 15 square miles.
  4. Research shows that regardless of the latex balloon’s ultimate form when it lands, it will decompose, forming a natural soil nutrient at the same rate as that of an oak leaf.

Dropping to Bottom of Litter List

In 1986 the Center for Marine Conservation (CMC) began a volunteer coastal cleanup program in Texas, went national in 1988 and international in 1989. Today, this campaign is known as the International Coastal Cleanup. In the United States it now involves more than 160,000 volunteers, who scoured 6,887 miles of beaches, oceans and waterways as part of the world’s largest marine trash haul.

In addition to removing debris from inland beaches, shorelines and waterways as well as underwater areas, the CMC collects and maintains detailed data on the types and amounts of debris removed each year. Even a casual look at this data reveals a downward trend in balloon litter which indicates balloon disposal labeling and good release management practices are working.

In 1994, the CMC’s U.S. Coastal Cleanup involved 139,746 volunteers and covered 5,200 shoreline and underwater miles. Balloons/balloon pieces were found at a rate of 6.93 per mile and accounted for .64 percent of the total debris collected — which resulted in balloons ranking 27th on the CMC’s list of 80 common items.

By 1998, the CMC’s U.S. Coastal Cleanup grew to include 160,000 volunteers and covered 6,887 miles. Although the manpower and coverage increased so dramatically in 1997, the amount of balloons/balloon pieces found decreased to a rate of 5.5 per mile.

That’s improvement.

The CMC‘s 1999 Coastal Cleanup occurred in September, but the debris data will not be available until the second quarter of 2000.

Bottom line — balloon litter has never been a significant part of the list of debris and it continues to drop towards the bottom of the CMC list. In 1994 balloons were ranked 27th and in 1997 balloons had fallen to 37th. This declining trend coincides with the industry’s public education programs and is evidence that the packaging information about proper disposal and release of balloon is working.

Carelessness Happens

However, a closer look at the make-up of the balloon litter found during these annual campaigns tells us the industry must continue to build consumer awareness through public education. For example, the makeup of the majority of balloons found during the cleanups are not the result of mass releases. In one Florida-wide cleanup there were 288 balloons/balloon pieces found. Of these:

  • 79 were water balloons which obviously are not used in releases
  • 38 were too small to have been released
  • 96 had strings/ribbon/thread attached (never used in a release)
  • 2 were valved (never used in a qualified release)
  • 3 were shaped (never used in a qualified release)
  • 70 — less than 25 percent — might have been used in releases

Objectively judging the cleanup data and applying common sense, most open-minded observers examining the facts will arrive at the conclusion that balloons — including mass balloon releases — do not constitute a serious litter or ecological problem. The majority of balloon litter is caused through either accident or carelessness.

Even so, public and regulatory agency perceptions are critical and the balloon industry is working to increase consumers awareness of good balloon use, safety and disposal management . The industry’s goal is to remove balloons from the CMC Coastal Cleanup litter list. Here’s what the industry is doing to reach this goal.

Consumer Education Ongoing

Balloon manufacturers and distributors are working alongside retailers to educate consumers and create awareness of the value of good balloon management practices. This is being accomplished through an ever-expanding campaign of informative messages attached to balloon bouquets and printed on balloon packages and in-store information. Specifically, these messages are:

  1. Follow industry guidelines for balloon releases — use only hand-tied latex balloons and no plastic attachments
  2. Never release mylar balloons
  3. Never attach metallic ribbon to helium-filled balloons. An accidental release could become tangled in power lines and might cause a line fault
  4. Always supervise young children under age 8. Never allow children to play with deflated balloons — or broken pieces — which could cause choking or suffocation
  5. Always attach weights — mug, vase or heavy object — to helium-filled balloons to counter lift and prevent accidental release
  6. Don’t tie helium-filled mylar balloons together and ensure each is individually attached to a counter-weight to prevent them from rising as a cluster which could catch on power lines.
  7. Properly dispose of balloons. Cut balloons with scissors directly above the knot or sealing point and immediately place in trash containers.

The balloon industry is intent on providing products that are fun and safe for everyone and don’t conflict with the environment. Industry leaders also recognize they have obligations to set industry standards that will help protect and preserve the environment, and provide consumers with information that will encourage them to use the product safely and responsibly and dispose of it properly.

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