Ingested Balloon debris is 32 times more likely to kill seabirds than ingesting hard plastics
In the journal published in Scientific Reports, PhD student Lauren Roman found that although hard plastics are the majority of debris consumed by seabirds, it has a lower chance of killing them compared to soft plastics such as balloons.
The threat of marine debris ingestion to animals can no longer go unnoticed. However, many people still do not understand that different amounts and types of debris ingested by birds can affect the rates of mortality. The most common cause of death amongst the studied birds was due to blockage of their gastrointestinal tract. The second most common cause of death was infections or other issues related to gastrointestinal obstructions. Although only 5% of the items consumed by the seabirds studied were soft plastics, it was still the cause of over 40% of their deaths. The balloons or fragments of it kills an estimate of 1 in 5 seabirds that ingest it.
Similar research was done on sea turtles and their plastic consumption. The study found that although hard plastic fragments pass faster through the guts, soft plastics had a higher likelihood of compacting and causing deadly gastrointestinal obstructions.
However, It is essential to keep in mind that all plastics are dangerous to seabirds, not only soft plastic such as balloons. The more plastic seabirds and other creatures eat, the higher their risk of mortality. Even a single piece of plastic could pose a mortal threat.
While the research did find that hard plastics had a lower chance of killing than soft plastics, hard plastics are still responsible for over half of the seabird deaths.
From the research evidence, it is clear that we need to reduce and remove marine debris from our environment to prevent further animal deaths caused by plastic ingestion, particularly balloons, This means no more single-use plastic bags, plastic straws, and no more balloon purchases.
Balloon manufacturing is a million dollar business. According to Orbis Research, the Global Party Balloon Market is worth 220 million US$ in 2017 and is estimated to reach approximately 330 million US$ by the end of 2025. California alone is already estimated to sell around 45-50 million balloons each year, let alone the whole world.
Given the prominence of balloons used for festivities such as valentines, birthdays, weddings, and so on. The concept of persuading people to let go of such a celebratory item seems difficult. However, balloons are not a necessity in our lives, and there are still many alternative ways to express ourselves without the need for harmful balloons. Hopefully, you can think twice the next time you go out to get balloons. The few hours of joy it brings can cause fatal consequences for many living creatures and pollute our environment for centuries to come.
*Boomi News is the official blog of Boomi, a Shanghai-based startup that provides starter kits filled with sustainable products to help guide you towards a more zero-waste lifestyle.
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