Editorial: A Ballooning Problem

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A lone mylar balloon, released from a holiday party in Southampton Village on the Fourth of July, became entangled in a transformer, causing it to blow, leaving more than 1,300 businesses and homes without electricity on what is arguably the village’s busiest day of the year.

The outage only lasted for a little over a half hour for most businesses and homeowners, and all customers had power restored within an hour and a half, according to PSEG.

While it was a relatively minor event, the issue of latex or mylar balloons — and the havoc they wreak on the environment — is much bigger, and one that intensifies around graduations, and holiday celebrations like Fourth of July.

Anyone who has spent time on East End beaches knows that balloons are often — intentionally and mistakenly — released into the atmosphere, where they blow into trees or water. Animals, and especially sea life, confuse the deflated balloons for food, or get entangled in its string. Mylar balloons are not biodegradable, and while latex balloons can be, they are also made with chemical additives giving them a long shelf life while they dirty beaches, parklands and other natural landscapes.

Are they festive? Sure. Are they fun? Of course. But are they worth it? Not really. We pay a bigger price in the long run than the short term joy a balloon may bring. Although ideal, an outright ban on the sale of balloons seems unlikely, but it would be nice if some local business owners decided to forego this profit — as hard a proposition as that is to swallow — for the better good of our environment.

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