You may no longer release helium balloons in Queen Anne’s County.

The Queen Anne’s County Commission has voted in a new ordinance that bans the release of helium balloons into the air. County officials put the new rule in place in an effort to protect wildlife and prevent environmental pollution. Queen Anne’s County is the first county in the state to institute a ban of this type. 

Discarded latex and mylar balloons are harmful to fish, birds, and marine life. The animals can mistake the balloons for food or get tangled in the ribbons, leading to death or injury. Balloons also cause pollute rivers, lakes and other waterways. Officials hope other counties in the nation will follow Queen Anne’s County’s lead on this important environmental issue.

 “Intentionally releasing balloons into the atmosphere is nothing short of littering,” said Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Christopher M. Corchiarino. “This ordinance will allow us to protect a cross-section of interests in the county while furthering the stewardship of our waterways and rural landscapes.”

If you get caught releasing balloons, you could get slapped with fines of up to $250 per incident. Pilot balloons used by meteorologists are also included in the ban. In addition to the environmental dangers caused by non-biodegradable latex, balloons have also come under fire for the use of helium. A natural element, helium is used to cool magnets in M.R.I. machines and has many other important scientific uses. Helium has been in short supply for the last 14 years, leading the scientific community to discourage its use for balloons.

There are several things people can do in lieu of balloon releases to mark a wedding or remembrance of a loved one. For weddings, blow bubbles or light sparklers to mark the exit of a couple. For a remembrance ceremony, plant a tree or native flowers or release flowers into a river or pool. 

What ideas do you have to replace the use of balloons? Do you think other Maryland counties will follow Queen Anne's lead? Tell us in the comments!