HARMLESS party decorations or deadly ocean predators?
Councils around the world are moving to ban helium balloons as research lays bare their devastating impact on marine life and sea birds.
A 2012 University of Queensland study found 79 per cent of the refuse found in dead turtles were balloons or balloon fragments.
Ingesting these man-made objects causes “float syndrome”, a painful and often lethal condition where gasses form in the digestive tract causing the animal to float, making them unable to dive for food or escape predators.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation named helium balloons as one of the top three most harmful environmental pollutants.
The documentary Rubber Jellyfish, showing at Luna on SX in Fremantle, shows the death and destruction balloons are wreaking.
Once released, there’s no control where they go and balloons have been found up to 250km out to sea.
Turtles and sea birds think balloons look like dinner; not danger. “The way they pop they resemble a jellyfish, with tassels at the bottom,” says Lisa Hill, an anti-balloon campaigner from South Fremantle.
Ms Hill’s powerful message has seen Perth College stop releasing balloons during graduation ceremonies, and prompted Fremantle council to look into banning them on council land.
“The Fremantle Cemetery Board no longer advocates their use, and asks people where possible to look at alternatives.
A party alternative to balloons is bunting, and Ms Hill and a band of volunteers are making “boomerang bunting”, which they hand out for free.
“I was already making boomerang bags and the penny dropped,” Ms Hills says.
“I talked to the people who started boomerang bags and asked if they mind if I used their logo and they loved the idea.”
Helium balloons can also be lethal to humans and more than 79 Australians died after inhaling the gas between 2005 to 2009, making death by balloon much more likely than being killed by a shark.
Rubber Jellyfish is at Luna Essex, Monday November 19, 6.30pm. Tickets $22 at au.demand.film/rubber-jellyfish
By JENNY D’ANGER