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NY County Passes Ban on Balloons

August 7, 2002

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Lawmakers in a Long Island county approved a ban on the mass release of balloons after schoolchildren expressed concern for wildlife.

The bill, which passed 15-1 Tuesday, applies to releases of more than 24 balloons and sets fines starting at $500. The Suffolk County executive said he would decided whether to sign it after a public hearing later this month.

``I think the biggest lesson they learned is that they can make a difference,″ said teacher Robyn Siegelman, whose third-graders lobbied for the ban as an Earth Day project. ``They made a law. That’s an amazing thing.″

Balloon releases are popular across the country. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, students in Pooler, Ga., launched 110 balloons with paper butterflies and notes for the people of New York. One traveled 853 miles to Mahopac, N.Y.

Patricia Bario, a spokeswoman for the Balloon Council trade group, questioned claims that balloons are a wildlife hazard and said they don’t create much litter.

Legislator Lynne Nowick pushed the ban after receiving a letter from the students. California, Connecticut, Florida, Ohio and Tennessee have similar restrictions.

``Our intention is not to deploy `balloon police’ on our streets,″ she said. ``We want to teach our next generation. This is a bill to help our environment.″

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