Mylar balloons and electrical wires make for a dangerous combination

three balloons tied to a small tree
Mylar balloon bouquets can drift great distances and right into power lines, causing dangerous conditions. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

Everyone loves to celebrate a graduation, birthday, baby shower, anniversary or wish someone well by purchasing a bouquet of silvery, sparkling helium-filled balloons. With their colorful messages printed on their surfaces, these balloons represent fun and good times.

However, if the balloon bunch accidently gets away and floats into electrical lines, it could cause a great deal of trouble and create hazardous conditions.

Mylar balloons are extremely dangerous around power lines. The shiny metallic coating conducts electricity. They can short out transformers, cause power outages, melt wires and cause them to fall to the ground. They can spark a power surge that could potentially ruin electronics and appliances. A fire, power outage or electrocution of people on the ground can be the result.

“Because mylar is a metallized plastic, which is electrically conductive, balloons can cause serious problems when they contact overhead power lines,” Kevin Short, general manager of the Anza Electric Cooperative Inc., said. “I strongly urge our members to exercise caution with these products and to not release them outdoors.”

California law prohibits the release of these balloons. According to Penal Code 653.1, effective Jan. 1, 2019, no person or group shall release, outdoors, balloons made of electrically conductive material and filled with a gas lighter than air, as part of a public or civic event, promotional activity or product advertisement.

Fines of $100 may be levied as a punishment. This law does not apply to governmental or scientific research or manned hot air balloons.

California law requires all mylar balloons to be anchored with a weight to prevent them floating up into power lines. The law also prohibits metallic ribbon from being attached to helium-filled balloons. Florists and other merchants should always make certain that these balloons are properly weighted.

One of the most common causes of power outages in Los Angeles is mylar balloons coming into contact with power lines. It results in more than 150 electrical service interruptions a year for the utility and can potentially cause injury to customers and to employees working on equipment.

Anyone who sees a mylar balloon come in contact with a power line should keep themselves, their equipment and all other items and people at least 10 feet away. Don’t try to climb the pole or try to retrieve the balloon. Call the Anza Electric Cooperative immediately at 951-763-4333. Always assume the power lines are energized and dangerous.

Southern California Edison recommended some additional safety tips for handling metallic balloons.

Never tie a mylar balloon to a child’s wrist. If the balloon contacts electricity, it can travel through the balloon and into the child, causing serious injury or death.
When finished with balloons, puncture them several times or cut the knot and throw them in the garbage to prevent them from floating away. Keep these balloons indoors and far away from power lines.

Resident can feel free to celebrate with the pretty metallic balloons but know the safety precautions involved and keep the community – and themselves and their family – safe.