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"The shadeball mania started in 2008 after Los Angeles realized that two of its reservoirs had unusually high levels of bromate, a suspect cancer-causing agent. Since bromate is formed when sunlight reacts with bromide (a chemical found in water) and ozone or chlorine (both of which are used to disinfect water) the city decided to shield the water from sunlight."
According to Bloomberg, the four-inch-wide shadeballs are coated with a UV-light blocking chemical. They're hollow and filled with water to keep them from flying away. Each one costs around 36¢ to make. "
They’re also seeing use on the tailing ponds where miners store contaminated water, to keep birds away from toxic agents, and in wastewater treatment facilities, to keep odors at bay.