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// Balloon school letter
Ms. Grainne McGowan, Principal,
Mount Anville Primary School,
Lower Kilmacud Road,
5 May 2009
Dear Ms. McGowan;
We were greatly disturbed to hear of your school's proposed use of a balloon release to raise funds planned for Thursday, 14th May, 2009.
We are aware of the vendor's claim that balloons are ‘biodegradable' and ‘self combust within a month'.
In fact, gas filled balloons can travel great distances. As you note, the return of balloons from other such Dublin school releases have come from as far away as Norway. On land even in fragments spent balloons will undoubtedly become litter, and as I am sure you teach your pupils, littering is an offense under the Acts.
While the industry claims that 95% of the balloons burst into harmless fragments at heights up to five miles above the sea, in fact 5% - 10% don't. Balloons exposed floating in seawater deteriorated much slower than those exposed in air, and even after 12 months still retained their elasticity with potential consequences to marine life. These can become 'marine debris', a lethal hazard for sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish, and seabirds who mistake them for jellyfish or other natural prey.
All of theses species have been reported with balloons in their stomachs. All seven species of marine turtle are near extinction and many turtles of two species in particular, the Loggerhead and Leatherback turtle, have been found with balloons in their intestines. Ingestion of balloons and plastic debris can cause internal damage and prevent animals from feeling hungry, leading to starvation. Even ribbons and strings tied to balloons can lead to entanglement.
Since a Canadian marine conference first brought this and related wildlife risks to notice in 1989, the mass release of balloons at public and corporate events has been increasingly controversial. San Francisco is one of many US coastal authorities to have banned the practice, and Britain's Marine Conservation Society supports similar measures. As an Island nation, should we not be teaching the value of and respect for our marine heritage?
We hope you will rethink your proposed balloon release and use this opportunity to ensure that your students are made aware of the environmental consequences of their actions at their early and formative age.
FRIENDS OF THE IRISH ENVIRONMENT
WEDNESDAY 7 MAY 2009
SCHOOL BALLOON RELEASES CRITICIZED
Friends of the Irish Environment have written to a Dublin primary school in an attempt to stop the growing trend of schools using mass balloon releases for fund raising.
On May 14 Mount Anville Primary School in Stillorgan plans to release thousands of balloons as part of their fund raising activities.
Each student gets a sales sheet and tries to sell as many balloons as possible. The balloons are tagged with a message asking the finder to return the label. Prizes are given to the buyer and seller of the balloon.
It has been well established since a Canadian marine conference in 1989 that the release of gas filled balloons is an environmental hazard.
Balloons become 'marine debris', a lethal hazard for sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish, and seabirds who mistake them for jellyfish or other natural prey.
The group previously tried to prevent President Mary McAleese partaking in a memorial balloon release in 2005. ASt the time Environment Minister Dick Roche refused to prohibit mass balloon releases.
San Francisco is one of many US coastal authorities to have banned the practice, and Britain's Marine Conservation Society supports similar measures.
The group has also written to John Gormley, the current Minister for the Environment, seeking to have him reexamine his predecessor's decision and ensure that students in particular are made aware of the established environmental damage done by these increasing popular school fund raisers.
Verification: Tony Lowes 027 73131 / 087 2176316
Mount Anville Primary School 01-2831148
Ryan Tubberdy and FIE discuss balloons as an environmental hazard at the time of the 2005 controversy