Lanterns hero
22 September 2014

Sky lanterns - a risk worth taking?

Trading Standards wants people to know the dangers.

Before releasing sky lanterns this summer it’s worth considering whether their beauty is worth the financial risk you're exposing yourself to.

The Trading Standards team at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have issued a warning about lighting and releasing lanterns.

Principal advisor Martin Rushton warned that if you release a lantern you could be responsible for the cost of putting out a fire and any damage caused, which could run into many thousands of dollars.

Sky lanterns work like a hot air balloon with the balloon made of paper. A tealight candle is placed at the opening at the bottom.

“Many sky lantern suppliers have a disclaimer that they have no responsibility for accidents or injury caused and anyone releasing lanterns, which cause a fire, could be liable,” Mr Rushton said.

Trading Standards said lanterns had caused fires in other countries and could also trigger false alarms if confused with distress flares.

The team also warned about the risk to animals, which could eat the lanterns and wire. Some livestock had injured their stomachs and mouths by eating the wire and in the UK some animals had died from internal injuries.

Here are some safety tips when using sky lanterns:

  • Flying sky lanterns could be mistaken for a distress signal, so inform the coastguard if launching in a coastal location.

  • Ensure all those involved in lighting and launching the sky lantern are over 18 years old. Children should not light, launch, or play with sky lanterns.

  • Check weather conditions and only release in still conditions.

  • Choose a wide open space, and ensure there are no obstacles close to the launch site (especially downwind or above) like buildings, trees, overhead cables, or pylons.

  • Have water, sand, or a fire extinguisher on hand.

  • Inspect the sky lantern for tears or any damage before use.

  • Stand upwind of the sky lantern and have all bystanders do likewise.

  • Do not launch near sites where there may be inflammable liquids or gases.

  • Do not launch within 5km of an airport.

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