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Proposed Law Bans Balloon Release in Virginia and Levies Fines

TRENTON, N.J., Feb. 1, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- State Senator Jeffrey McWaters (R - Virginia Beach) recently sponsored Senate Bill 1107 proposing to ban balloon releases in Virginia. The bill would make it illegal in most cases to release balloons inflated "with a substance lighter than air" that are not biodegradable or photodegradable and subject to a civil fine of $5 per offending balloon. The Balloon Council opposes the bill as an unneeded "Balloon Police Squad."

The release of more than 50 nonbiodegradable or nonphotodegradable balloons in Virginia is illegal and subject to a $5 civil fine for each balloon. Yet Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has not recorded a single fine nor shown any revenue deposited to the Lifetime Hunting and Fishing Endowment Fund as directed by the current law.

The fiscal impact statement attached to the proposed bill estimates the Department of Environmental Quality could spend $600,000 annually to enforce the law. As amended the bill would place enforcement in the hands of police officers of the Department of State Police.

"The Balloon Council shares Virginia's passion for the environment and welcomes the opportunity to join in the effort to educate consumers about responsible balloon practices in a way that helps the environment without unnecessary legislation that harms local Virginia businesses and provides no real benefit," stated Lorna O'Hara, Executive Director of The Balloon Council. "This proposed bill would just form a new balloon police squad and divert police attention from far more pressing matters."

Latex balloons are a fully biodegradable, a 100 percent natural product made from the milky sap of the rubber tree. Latex is farmed in sustainable, ecologically friendly processes and the oxygen produced by the trees in the photosynthesis process is beneficial to the environment. In the manufacturing process the latex is colored with natural dyes. According to a study conducted by the National Association of Balloon Artists, research has demonstrated a latex balloon will degrade at approximately the same rate as an oak leaf.

When balloons are properly released into the atmosphere, most rise approximately five miles until the cold air causes them to burst into countless small pieces. These tiny pieces float back to earth over a wide area and degrade along with foliage and other natural products. While some animals may chew latex balloons, researchers have found no credible evidence that balloons have ever caused the death of an animal (A Study on The Effect of Balloon Releases on the Environment, National Association of Balloon Artists).

The Balloon Council, a national association of balloon manufacturers, distributors and retailers, has developed standards for balloon releases in order to minimize their impact on the environment. These guidelines recommend the use of self-tied, biodegradable balloons without attachments, including strings, plastic plugs or other weighted objects. Additionally, foil balloons should never be tied into clusters or released into the air which is why the balloon council promotes weighting foil balloons to prevent accidental release.

Balloon retailers across the nation have joined the Balloon Council's nationwide "Responsible Balloon Retailer" program. The retailers have committed to adhere to a code of smart balloon practices and proactively educate consumers about smart balloon use to ensure appropriate handling.

CONTACT: Media Contact Carolinn Pocher Woody 215.880.7277Source:The Balloon Council