I have read several articles lately calling for helium balloons to be banned, citing their adverse
environmental impact and how they diminish the supply of helium available for medical use. These calls are
largely based on a lack of information, and I hope this blog will help to clarify some of the perceived issues.
Balloon releases used to be an incredibly popular activity at weddings, events and particularly memorial
services. However, it is upsetting when pictures are posted of wildlife which have been injured, or worst
still have died, from ingesting or being caught in balloons and their ribbons. As a professional and
responsible balloon decorator I simply cannot support the release of these balloons, and I and the vast
majority of balloon professionals don’t offer balloon releases for this reason.
Whilst we try hard to educate our customers, unfortunately there will always be those who are less
responsible and don’t care about the impact of their actions. There are many other ideas particularly for
memorials that can also offer comfort, such as blowing bubbles, releasing doves, scattering rose petals or
planting a tree that offer the chance for reflective time without having the impact of balloons landing
If you are looking for balloons for release please, please consider an alternative that will have a far less
harmful impact in the long run such as the suggestions made above. Helium balloons are best enjoyed
secured to a weight and responsibly disposed of once they have been enjoyed for as long as possible.
Helium for medical ‘v’ balloon use
In order to provide a definitive, fact based view on the difference between medical and balloon gas, BOC
have kindly provided the following statement;
“It’s important to be aware that there is a distinction between pure, liquid helium and impure, gaseous
helium. Gas companies prioritise supplies of pure, liquid helium for critical medical uses e.g. MRI scanners in hospitals, ensuring that they can remain fully operational.
Helium for balloons is a different product – it is impure and gaseous and produced as a by-product of
supplying liquid helium for the MRI market – a market which makes up about forty percent of the helium
business in the UK. Impure, gaseous helium cannot be used directly in medical MRI scanners or in other
applications that use super-conducting magnets. Impure helium can be recovered by the customer and
reliquefied if the customer has the necessary plant on site, and if not, it can still be recovered and
reprocessed for use in the balloon market.
Industrial gas companies do support the recovery and reprocessing of helium to ensure that every
opportunity is taken to recycle and reuse this important resource. Historically, recovery has only been viable for large users of helium, but new opportunities are consistently being reviewed and implemented with customers to help them conserve and reuse their helium.
For the future, there is still plenty of helium on our planet, with investments being made to bring various
new sources on-stream in the coming years. The locations and environments of these new sources will mean the market price for helium is expected to continue to rise, but making these investments will mean that helium will continue to be available for many years to come. Rising prices in the market will also drive an increase in investment in the means by which customers can recover more of their own helium.“
Claire Carney is an independent florist, a Certified Balloon Artist and NABAS Approved Balloon Décor
Instructor based near Norwich, Norfolk, UK.