Mass Balloon Launch Planned for Veterans Day Creates Potential Threat to Sea Turtles and Other Wildlife!

Date: November 3, 2000
Contact: Gary Appelson
Phone: (352) 373-6441

How You Can Help

The Caribbean Conservation Corporation (STC), the Center for Marine Conservation (CMC) and others have been working on this issue related tp the mass release of helium balloons by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA). NFDA is planning a massive balloon launch across the country on Veterans Day, November 11th, to coincide with the groundbreaking ceremony for the new WWII memorial on the National Mall in Washington DC. Funeral homes across the country are being encouraged by NFDA to become involved in organizing local balloon launch events as fundraisers to help build the memorial. For a minimum donation of 10 dollars, an individual can have a balloon released in honor of a veteran.

The organizers of this campaign have been encouraged to rethink their approach and to adopt an alternative form of celebration. While STC & CMC are not against balloons, we are against releasing balloons into the atmosphere, where they will eventually return to earth and could pose a danger to a marine or terrestrial animal. It is well documented that sea turtles and other marine animals ingest discarded balloons and/or balloon fragments, mistaking them for natural prey food items. Numerous necropsies on marine animals from sea turtles to whales have shown balloon pieces blocking the throat or intestine.

We need your help in trying to stop this planned balloon launch. Please pass the word along to like-minded individuals and organizations. And if you hear of any activity being organized in your community(s), please talk to the organizers of the event and try to dissuade them from a balloon release. The balloons could be collected instead and taken to a Veterans Hospital, VFW Hall, or the children’s ward of a local hospital and released indoors during a celebration – a much more fitting tribute to our loved ones and veterans.


Please help by calling, faxing or writing the National Funeral Directors Association and ask to speak to Robert Harden, the Executive Director in charge of the event. Let him know your concerns and ask for an alternative celebration.

The contact info is:

Mr. Robert Harden
Executive Director
National Funeral Directors Association
13625 Bishop’s Dr.
Brookfield, WI 53005
Phone: 262-789-1880
Fax: 262-789-6977

Here is a brief list of the key points to make when talking with Mr. Harden and/or local organizers:

1. The balloon industry claims balloons degrade as fast as an oak leaf. IF this were true, balloons would take up to four years to fully degrade – much too long a time for them to be around to be found and eaten by an unsuspecting animal.

2. Scientific studies have proven that sea turtles show a feeding preference for brightly colored balloons over other items such as clear plastic – and they do not pass through the digestive tract of a turtle in the normal time but have been proven to accumulate and may take up to four months to pass through (normal time is ~ 10 days).

3. Releasing balloons into the air is the same as littering. The balloon industry claims balloons explode in many tiny harmless fragments when they reach a certain altitude, but the over 32,000 balloons picked up on beaches during a 1999 cleanup would indicate otherwise – many return to earth intact.

4. Many states (including Florida) and municipalities have banned balloon launches. Launches are widely regarded by many in the general public as very harmful to the environment and to marine animals. Promoting a balloon launch as part of their event will only attract negative publicity to an otherwise honorable cause.

Thanks to CMC for putting this alert together.