The public is being urged to think twice about releasing Chinese lanterns because of the significant risks they pose to fields of standing crops, buildings and to livestock and marine animals.
The NFU, Women’s Food and Farming Union and Marine Conservation Society have teamed up to raise the issue once again, following a major fire at a factory in Smethwick, West Midlands, today.
NFU rural surveyor Louise Staples said: “Our members know how dangerous these lanterns can be. They can harm or kill a farm animal which ingests a wire frame in chopped grass. And there’s a fire risk to standing and stored crops, buildings, and of wild fires on moorland.
“As we have seen today, they can also cause severe fires on an industrial scale, an event that left several people injured.
“We really would hope people would think twice about releasing them into the air because of the very real dangers they pose.”
Eunice Finney, vice president of the Women’s Food and Farming Union, said: “These lanterns are far more dangerous than fireworks. We have warned Defra that there could be a death.”
The Marine Conservation Society’s head of conservation, Mike Cook, said that as well as a fire risk, lanterns were also a danger for wildlife through choking and entanglement when they fall back to earth or float out to sea.
“Lanterns floating over the sea have been mistaken for distress flares. We have received reports of numerous false alarms for the Coastguard and RNLI. MCS volunteers regularly find bits of lanterns on beaches during the hundreds of beach cleans we carry out every year.
“The paper may have gone but the frames are still intact and dangerous – both to humans and marine wildlife. These mobile fireballs have to come down somewhere, and it’s often on farmland or out at sea.”
The NFU has received numerous reports of harm to livestock, and in some instances death, caused by cattle ingesting the metal wires contained within the lantern frames. Lanterns can also be also be chopped up during silage and hay making leading to ingestion at a later date, while the wire can also get tangled around the animal’s feet or become embedded in its skin.
The NFU is also concerned about the bamboo frames used in the construction of most lanterns, which are very durable and prone to splintering.