"The (California) Fish and Game code 5652 prohibits littering balloons into state waters," Patrick Foy, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game, said in a CNET article by Daniel Terdiman. "There are plenty of written stories about the problems associated with the release of balloons and when they are ingested."
"It's still trash," said Ann Bauer, of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif., in the same CNET article. "It's biodegradable over time, but a bird can still get entangled in it right now. A sea lion could be curious about it, bite it and swallow it. It could clog their stomach and cause them to die - right now. Biodegradable takes time to happen."
The balloons were released to promote Homefront, a game based on an invasion of the United States by Korean forces in 2027. The game's website features images of bound and gagged Americans being beaten, next to women and children rounded up with assault weapons pointed at them.
THQ's promotional partner was video game distributor GameStop. GameStop's name appeared on the balloons, many of which also carried promotional flyers.
"We understand the concerns consumers have regarding the impact balloons can have on the environment," GameStop said on their Facebook page. "However, the balloon drop stunt in San Francisco was created by THQ, the publisher of Homefront, and GameStop had no prior knowledge of it. THQ has since informed us that they released soy-based, biodegradable balloons."
Since I had never heard of soy-based ballloons, I called a few balloon manufacturers and distributors but was unable to find anyone selling soy-based balloons. No one I talked to had even heard of the product.
Continuing the search for soy balloons, I called THQ's vice president of investor relations and corporate communications and left a message. She was kind enough to return my call and confirm that the balloons were not soy, but indeed made of latex.
IMAGE 1: Balloons float on San Francisco Bay after a THQ/GameStop publicity stunt (Credit: Twitter user seedlingproject).
IMAGE 2: Red Balloon, 1922, Paul Klee (Wikimedia Commons).