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Helium Balloons

Guidance for the safe and responsible outside release of helium balloons in Wolverhampton.

As a local authority, City of Wolverhampton wishes to discourage the outdoor mass release of helium balloons on the following grounds:

  • Potential threat to the welfare of wildlife.
  • Blight on the environment.
  • Helium is a finite resource and essential in many medical applications.

The balloon industry itself acknowledges that problems can arise when a balloon is not fully inflated or carrying too much weight and therefore doesn't reach the height at which shattering occurs. This situation causes a potential danger to wildlife and the environment.

Guidance

To mitigate against this potential harm the following guidance should be followed in the event that a balloon release is being considered:

  • Only natural latex rubber balloons should ever be used since latex is an organic product that degrades naturally in the environment. However research shows degradation can take up to 6 months depending upon the environmental conditions at the point of landing.     
  • Foil balloons and those containing any metallic pigment should not be used. Metal coated plastic foil balloons do not biodegrade and foils will conduct electricity and present a threat to life and electrical supplies if released and caught in distribution conductors etc.
  • Bubble balloons are formed from a stretchy plastic that does not biodegrade and should not be released. Being of a superior construction to foil balloons and requiring much higher helium pressure to inflate, they will reach much higher altitudes if released into the atmosphere and could become a hazard to aircraft.
  • No ribbons or strings must be attached to the balloons and any labels should be attached via the hand tied balloon knot. The exception to the rule is the use of card for competition releases. These cards are designed to decompose if not found and returned as part of the competition.  Stray balloons that have been found on beaches are usually found with some object attached. 
  • Balloons must always be launched singly as they disperse more easily and quickly. They must never be tied together in bunches for releasing.
  • Balloons larger than 12 inch should not be released.
  • All balloons sold near balloon releases sites must be weighted to ensure they cannot escape. 
  • It is a requirement that if more than 5,000 balloons are being released you must apply in writing for permission to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) at least 28 days in advance of the release. The CAA must also be informed of any balloon releases up to 5,000 balloons if the release is in the vicinity of an airport or airfield.

Helium balloon gas

Helium balloon gas is an inert gas, non-toxic, non-flammable, odourless and colourless. It is stored in highly pressurised containers which should be handled with appropriate care and attention at all times. Cylinders should always be stored upright and secured in a well-ventilated area. Care should be taken at all times when transporting, storing or using gas cylinders.

Never under any circumstances inhale, or allow anyone to inhale helium balloon gas. Compressed gases when breathed in high concentrations may result in asphyxiation.

Other safety considerations:

  • Children under the age of 8 with balloons should be supervised at all times.
  • Always use a hand pump (or similar) to inflate balloons.
  • Adults should inflate balloons for children under the age of 8.
  • Never put a balloon, or piece of a balloon, in or near the mouth.
  • Inhaling helium can cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness and death.
  • Always discard broken balloons safely.