A UK newspaper headline but guess what, not aliens but Chinese lanterns drifting in the sky.
The sight of these lanterns in the sky is very beautiful as they gently float away commemorating a birthday, a loved one’s passing, a finale at the end of an event but stop do you really know the consequences of setting one or more of these lanterns into the sky?

The recent fire at Smethwick, West Midlands earlier this summer prompted the NFU to ask again that these lanterns are banned NOEA  agrees and we really need to stop these being used at events.

The ancient Chinese decorations, which are supposed to bring good luck, first became popular in Britain a couple of years ago among tourists who had enjoyed their beauty on holiday to the Far East.

However there are substantial risks involved Exporters started bringing the lanterns to Britain and they are now sold in shops across country for £2 to £5, with more than 100,000 sold last year.

The paper balloons, which can float up to a mile into the air when the candle-like fuel cell is lit, are constructed with metal wire.

The idea is that the fire will go out by the time the lanterns come back to earth, but they often come down when the lantern is still burning.


Non Biodegradable

The paper can degrade in about six to eight weeks. But the wire in them can last nine months and is of a fine gauge with sharp ends. There are some without wire that use cane, wool or string – but these still take time to degrade and can splinter which could cause issues for livestock and littering.

Fire risk

There is evidence that their use has caused moorland or forest fires at certain times of year when vegetation and weather conditions have made sites vulnerable to fire.

Numerous cases have been reported where hay and straw stacks have caught fire as a result of lanterns landing when the cell is still alight. In a  particularly, dry year  there is a risk also of standing crops catching fire.
In a nationwide survey in 2011, a third of Britain's fire brigades said they had received emergency callouts to extinguish lanterns. Damage caused included scorched gardens and roofs. But firefighters said they had experienced a number of false alarms as the lanterns had burned themselves out before they arrived. The lanterns are at their most dangerous in the summer because of drier conditions.

The fire risk extends beyond farm buildings and crops to all buildings.

In 2013 eleven firefighters were injured and £6million of damage was caused when more than 100,000 tonnes of waste plastic and paper went up in flames at a recycling plant at Smethwick West Midlands.
The blaze was started at 11pm on Sunday by a Chinese lantern that floated on to the site and landed on some rubbish, setting it alight. More than 200 firefighters tackled the blaze at the industrial estate.
Danger to livestock

There have been examples of cattle and sheep eating the lanterns and wire. This has caused injury to stomachs  and mouths.  Chopped wire can stay in the rumen (the cows stomach) for a long time and the wire can catch on anything at any time and perforate the gut. There have been several further cases of cows dying from ingested wire in the last 12 months.
No one could fail to be shocked when reading of one cow that ate the wire was in constant agony with no known reason, gave birth to her calf early and died in agony. A post-mortem revealed the wire from a Chinese lantern in her gut.

Animals can also be startled by the unusual light, run into fences resulting in injuries and may have to be put down.

Contaminates hay and silage

Farmers cutting grass for stock feed or bedding can gather wire and other lantern parts in the grass, which in turn is fed or used as bedding for stock.


Even though some parts are biodegradable they do remain on view either on the ground, in trees and hedges, which is an eyesore.

It is an offence to create litter and it is distressing for landowners/farmers who find dozens of lanterns have landed over a small area, (especially, for instance, if it’s a field due for imminent harvest). It is also difficult to recover them from trees.

It is obvious when a venue upwind has released significant numbers of lanterns, and it does leave the venue at risk of a civil claim for any damage caused.

The Marine Conservation Society last year called for a ban after a survey of beaches found an increase in rubber, paper and pieces of metal. The charity wants the lanterns to be classed as litter so people releasing them could be fined as much as £2,500, arguing that they are a danger to marine life, among other things.

Can be confused with distress flares

The UK Coastguard has been called out on false alarms when lanterns have been confused with distress flares. False alarms at sea for both the Coastguard and RNLI, after lanterns were mistaken for flares, led to more calls for a ban. In 2010, the RNLI said it saw a significant increase in the number of lifeboat callouts caused by lanterns.

Aviation Risk

According to civil aviation authorities, there is a danger of lanterns being sucked into plane engines while airborne. On the ground, lantern debris has the potential to cause damage to aircraft engines, tyres and fuselage, they argue. The lanterns have been banned in the popular tourist destination of Sanya, China, after dozens of flights had to be delayed.

The Civil Aviation Authority in Donegal warned against the use of the lanterns after one landed near a container packed with thousands of gallons of aviation fuel.

UFO sightings

UFO sightings dramatically increased as lanterns became more popular. Recently released National Archive files show that the Ministry of Defence's now-defunct UFO desk logged three times as many reports in 2009 - the year it was shut down - than in an average year.

At the time, Nick Pope, head of the MoD's UFO Project, supported the theory that many of those sightings were down to Chinese lanterns. "I'm not disparaging the whole UFO phenomenon," he said at the time. "But I'd say 99% of UFO reports involving orange lights in the sky these days are attributable to these lanterns."

One of the earliest UK newspaper headlines revealing the confusion between lanterns and UFOs was in 2006. Residents of a small Scottish town who spotted strange lights in the sky called the police, but the "saucers" turned out to be Chinese lanterns released during a wedding ceremony.


All the suppliers have disclaimer that they have no responsibility for accidents or injury caused and that releasers of lanterns could be liable.
Parliamentary Debate

CLA East and Conservative MP Julian Sturdy have agreed to join forces in an attempt to secure a new Parliamentary debate regarding a ban on sky lanterns which would allow other MPs to voice their concerns, and help form a cross-party coalition of those seeking a ban.

NOEA have raised this with Nick du Bois

NOEA wants to encourage all event organisers, venue owners and corporate industry to work towards a ban of skylanterns