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While celebrating, avoid letting that balloon fly free

A colorful balloon might seem like an innocent, child-like way to celebrate an accomplishment or special day.

Letting a balloon soar into the sky seems to encompass our own longings to take off and see what adventures the winds might carry us to — think “The Wizard of Oz” or the animated film “Up” — if we just had the chance. We dream of where it might eventually land.

But reality isn’t quite so pleasant. As it turns out, those wandering balloons can cause considerable damage.

Wisconsin Public Service recently reminded the public that metallic or Mylar balloons have caused just WPS customers alone to lose more than 1,100 hours of electric service since 2015.

The balloon’s metallic coating, not surprisingly, conducts electricity. Wind and weather conditions can drive these balloons into overhead power lines, which can cause an outage, according to a WPS news release.

That doesn’t mean stop buying these festive balloons, which certainly can provide a unique touch to an event. The WPS just recommends:

— Never release them outdoors. When possible, keep them indoors.

— Make sure they are tied securely to a weight.

— Keep them away from power lines.

— Let the air or helium out and throw them away when finished.

— Never touch a balloon caught in power lines.

Those who spot a balloon tangled in electrical equipment should call WPS at 800-450-7240, or their own electricity provider.

Balloons pose a different, yet just as significant, risk to wildlife. Birds, turtles and other animals regularly mistake balloons for food, which can harm or even kill if they ingest the plastic or become tangled in the balloon cord or ribbon, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Balloons are great at birthdays, weddings, graduations and more,” the FWS advised, “but once they get loose, balloons can pose a threat to many animals.”

A cleanup at one national wildlife refuge beach turned up more than a hundred balloons, according to the FWS. Worse are the images of a number of dead birds and turtles choked by balloons or fatally ensnared by ribbons.

“They make clearer than any words why we all should find alternatives to letting a balloon go,” the FWS stated.

So while marking graduations, weddings, birthdays and other occasions this summer, keep those balloons carefully tethered and preferably indoors, so the celebration won’t potentially create problems elsewhere.

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