Although an in-person hearing was canceled, AWI staff provided testimony to the Montgomery County Council in March in support of Bill 6-20. The bill, sponsored by Council Member Tom Hucker, prohibits the intentional release of balloons in the county. While it may seem like a harmless celebratory gesture, the release of latex and Mylar balloons threatens both animals and humans. For animals, contact with balloons or balloon fragments can have lethal consequences; in fact, they are considered to be one of the top five most dangerous forms of marine pollutants, ensnaring or choking animals such as turtles and birds. In addition, balloons, particularly metal-coated Mylar balloons, can damage human infrastructure, resulting in power outages and fires. In San Diego, for example, a transformer overloaded and exploded after its neighboring power lines became entangled with a cluster of released Mylar balloons. In Montana, a Mylar balloon ensnared in a power line set off the Saddle Butte fire, which destroyed 255 acres.
Further action on the bill was postponed due to the coronavirus. Should it pass, Montgomery County, Maryland, will join the growing number of jurisdictions across the nation taking action to protect animals, the environment, and human infrastructure by ending the communal threat of balloon releases.