Warning issued over balloon launches

SCHOOLS across Suffolk are today expected to get letters warning about the environmental dangers of balloon launches.Suffolk County Council said earlier this year that balloon launches should not take place on council premises.

By Paul Geater

SCHOOLS across Suffolk are today expected to get letters warning about the environmental dangers of balloon launches.

Suffolk County Council said earlier this year that balloon launches should not take place on council premises.

The Marine Conservation Society has warned that balloon latex that comes down in the sea can kill fish, birds, and turtles because once eaten it can be caught in stomachs and lead to slow deaths.

The dangers were highlighted last week when students from Chantry High School released scores of balloons to mark an anti-bullying day.

A county council spokeswoman said: “The anti-bullying message is important, but we would say this is not the best way to illustrate that.

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“We shall be writing to every school in the county to explain why balloon launches are not good for the environment and to suggest alternative ways of getting the message across.

“We have not imposed a total ban on them - but we would always advise people that there are better ways of getting the message across.”

Gill Bell from the Marine Conservation Society was disappointed to hear about the balloon launch and said in an ideal world it would like to write to every school in the country to explain the dangers.

“We are sure that children would not want to take part in balloon launches if they knew the distress the old balloons can cause to marine wildlife.

“Hopefully the publicity that has surrounded this launch will persuade other schools to look at other ways of getting publicity.”

Chantry deputy head Jamie Daniels said the school had not been aware of any council advice not to hold balloon launches and had consulted the industry code of conduct to ensure environmental damage was minimised.

“Our understanding is that the latex is biodegradable and will vaporise in the high atmosphere. We have not heard anything from the county council so far,” he said.

“The anti-bullying message is very important and we would not want anything to distract attention from that,” he said.

BALLOON launches have been popular devices to raise awareness of issues for many years.

The Marine Conservation Society has warned that they can cause serious damage to sea life and has launched a campaign “Don't let go” to encourage organisations to look at other ways of raising the profile of an issue.

The Balloon Association represents manufacturers and has a code of conduct for balloon launches - it says latex balloons that go high into the atmosphere disintegrate without causing any environmental damage.

The MCS disputes this and says many balloons do come down intact and can cause damage.

A rare green turtle was found dead - and a post mortem found the remains of a latex balloon in its stomach which prevented it from digesting food.

Earlier this year councils in Suffolk pledged to stop balloon launches from their property.

In the past balloon launches have been used at Ipswich Town FC - but that is unlikely to happen in the future.

Club spokesman Steve Pearce said today it was aware of the environmental concerns about balloon launches and any proposed balloon launch would have to be carefully considered before it went ahead.

Should balloon launches be banned? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.>

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