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Balloons fill rooms with rainbows of color, but they also have practical uses for people with disabilities. Balloons are used in rehabilitation exercises for adults and children with physical disabilities.

Natural latex from rubber trees is used in some balloons.The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that about 1% of the general population is allergic to the proteins in rubber trees. People with health-related disabilities who are repeatedly exposed to latex in hospitals are at high risk for latex allergies. The Cleveland Clinic reports that people with spina bifida and other congenital urogenital disorders are at the highest risk because of their long-term exposure to latex catheters.

Mylar balloons do not cause allergies. However, mylar balloons raise environmental concerns because its nylon material is not biodegradable. The Balloon Council cautions against the release of mylar balloons into the air.

In very rare instances, young children die from after swallowing pieces of deflated balloons. The Balloon Council recommends adult supervision of children under eight. Supervision of older children and adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities and pica appears advisable.

Balloons were invented in 1824 by English scientist, Michael Faraday. In the 1824 “Quarterly Journal of Science”, Faraday described rubber bags that expand with hydrogen to became “so light as to form balloons with considerable ascending power....”. In 1889, the Anderson Rubber Company made balloons commercially available in the United States.In 1931, the first latex balloon was developed by American chemist Neil Tillotson. While frustrated with his research, Tillotson drew a cat's picture on cardboard and dipped it into liquid latex. Then, he separated the cardboard from the latex and blew into the shape. Voila! the first novelty balloon!

Balloons come in many sizes, colors, surface finishes, shapes, patterns, motifs and messages. Certified balloon artists create customized centerpieces, garlands, archways, columns, and sculptures.


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