Chinese Lanterns - The dangers

Chinese Sky Lanterns

Chinese Lanterns or "sky lanterns" have been used to mark special occasions for many years now. It has become increasingly popular to use chinese lanterns for weddings, birthdays, parties and many different celebrations.

Recently, there have been reports that have blamed chinese lanterns for the cause of several fires in the United Kingdom, damage to property and distress to wildlife. Due to the dangers associated with some of the lanterns, several countries have actually banned their use, including Germany and Austria, with other countries set to follow suit.

How do Chinese lanterns work?

They are made of a non-flammable paper, a flammable base and a metal frame which holds the sides of the lantern back to give it the round or oval shape. Basically, the flammable base is set alight, and as the air inside the lantern heats up, the lantern then rises and floats upwards and away. It takes around 20-30 seconds for the lantern to rise, and once this happens it can reach heights of up to 250 metres. The lanterns can stay afloat for up to 20 minutes. Once the fuel has been used, the flame extinguishes and the lantern is supposed to float back down to earth. The instructions on the box state that the lanterns should be lit after dark, in open spaces with no surrounding trees, buildings or overhead cables.

The problem with sky lanterns

One of the problems which has occurred, is that in some instances, the lanterns have floated back down to the ground before the fuel has been fully used and extinguished. In several cases, the lanterns have landed and set fire to paper, grass and even trees. Once the lantern has descended to earth, the metal support from the inside is all that remains and is a huge hazard to birds, farm animals and wildlife. The wire poses a real threat to the environment and one farmer claims that one of his cattle ate the metal ring and later died as a result.

Perhaps we should all think before we buy sky lanterns. They may look beautiful in the night sky, but is it worth the risk to our environment and wildlife?

Eco-friendly chinese lanterns

Several of the manufacturers of sky lanterns have become aware of the dangers and have put in place some measures to try to eliminate the potential hazards. If you are thinking of having chinese lanterns for an upcoming event, try and source ones that are eco-friendly. Check the box to ensure that the lantern is 100% bio-degradeable and contains no metal parts. Many of the eco-friendly lanterns have a pre-attached fuel cell which is held on by flame retardant wool. If this is ingested by animals, it is totally harmless. Hopefully, in the near future, all manufacturers will have more stringent safety measures enforced or a total ban if they fail to comply. That's me done....rant over!

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Comments 14 comments

Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

Hi, Jacqui. You make some very valid points in this Hub. Incredibly, there is someone near to me who puts Chinese lanterns up a couple of times a week, every week. I have no idea precisely where they are coming from but I see them regularly. It would seem that - quite literally - someone has money to burn, over and above the other concerns.


jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 5 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom Author

Hi Gordon. Thanks for stopping by. I must admit that I have used chinese lanterns in the past, to mark the passing of a family member. I haven't used them since I read the story of the farmer who lost his cow because of the metal. Thanks for your comment. Hopefully some strict law will be passed soon. Take care.


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

I hadn't known this was a problem with them, it is good of you to have hubbed about it to help inform others.


jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 5 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom Author

Phil, thanks for reading. Some of the cheaper lanterns contain the metal parts which are highly dangerous to wildlife. Thanks for your comment.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 5 years ago from America

They are so pretty but fire would be a problem I would think if everything was dry. This year it has been dry a lot.

Enjoyed your hub. Gave you a up vote and useful.


jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 5 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom Author

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. They do look pretty, but I think that fire would be a huge concern for me. I'd hate to think that I had caused a problem by releasing a lantern.


Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 5 years ago from US

I love them but I agree and have never used them. I think clear Christmas lights are great outdoors all year long and can be hidden to be very beautiful.


jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 5 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom Author

Hi Pollyannalana, That's a great suggestion, christmas lights in the garden is a much safer and easier alternative. As you say, the wires can be easily hidden for a wonderful effect. Thanks for reading.


Silver Poet profile image

Silver Poet 5 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

Thanks. If I decide to use Chinese lanterns, I'll go with the eco friendly ones.


jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 5 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom Author

@ Silver Poet - It would be so much safer for animals and the environment if everyone used the eco friendly lanterns. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.


Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

This is really good information. I was never familiar with these lanterns until recently. I saw a show about a town that believed they saw a UFO, but it was really only a Chinese lantern once a team investigated it.


jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 5 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom Author

@ Jeannieinabottle - They look lovely in the night sky and I'm not surprised that they could be mistaken for UFO's. Thanks so much for your comment.


shafiqahmed profile image

shafiqahmed 5 years ago

Your this hub is very interesting to me because I have worked on restoration of the Chinese lantern. I am a museum conservator/restorer, specialist in paper-based objects. Thanks for sharing this hub.


jacqui2011 profile image

jacqui2011 5 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom Author

@ shafiqahmed - I am glad that you found the hub of interest. Thank you so much for your comment which I appreciate.

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