While the go-to standard Valentine’s Day gifts are usually comprised of a bouquet of flowers, an adorable stuffed animal and an assortment of various chocolates (a third of which will be passed over and eventually discarded), time is running out on another romance mainstay.
Metallic balloons, like the foil or mylar heart-shaped balloons often given to loved ones on Valentine’s Day, will soon be harder to find than a partner who shares the same interests and values.
By 2028, the state will begin phasing out sales of the balloons. By 2031, they will become illegal contraband in the state of California. They were outlawed in recent legislation that was passed unanimously and then signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom back in September.
The reason? They pose a massive risk for causing wildfires or power outages.
When released, the metal coating on the balloons can cause an explosion or an electrical shortage if they come into contact with power lines.
Power utilities like Southern California Edison have advocated for their removal from California stores. SCE says metallic balloons caused 802 outages and 97 explosions in 2022.
The company says balloon-related incidents begin to increase in regularity around the time of Valentine’s Day. Last year, a balloon caused an outage in Fontana that left 1,500 people without power, some left in the dark overnight.
Thankfully, the total number of incidents has been decreasing over the years thanks in part to public information campaigns and the rising cost of helium, SCE says.
Some cities in California have already outright banned them due to public safety risks, but the new legislation aims to permanently let the air out of any metallic balloon celebrations.
But if you just have to get your hands on a foil balloon and don’t think that desire will fade over the next five years, there is good news. The new law doesn’t explicitly get rid of all metallic balloons, just those that conduct electricity.
Manufacturers will have years to develop and create balloons that meet this new requirement and one of the largest balloon manufacturers has already successfully developed a promising non-conductive metallic balloon.
In the meantime, Californians are still urged to keep metallic balloons earthbound until the new law goes into effect.
And if you need any other reason to end the practice of releasing balloons into the air, the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife says many animals can mistake them for food or get tangled in the strings. Balloons are responsible for hundreds of animals deaths every year, many of which can be violent deaths.
Instead, celebrate your love for one another by planting native flowers, blowing bubbles or flying a kite. An animal (and your local power utility) will thank you.