By Kathryn Westcott
BBC News Magazine
A massive fire at a recycling plant in the West Midlands is thought to have been started by Chinese lanterns. As well as being a fire risk, they're associated with other problems.
Fire chiefs called for an "urgent review" into the use of Chinese lanterns after more than 200 firefighters were called to the fire in the town of Smethwick.
The lanterns have become an increasingly popular sight at weddings, Halloween celebrations, music festivals and even funerals, with an estimated 200,000 being sold in the UK every year.
The paper lanterns consist of a candle or a fuel cell filled with paraffin wax suspended inside a frame of wire or bamboo. When lit, they float gently upwards and drift away, landing when the fuel has run out. They can reach up to 1,000m in height and drift for several miles in the breeze.
There are already bans or restrictions on the lanterns in a number of countries because of the hazards they can cause.
1. The danger to the environment and fire risk led Glastonbury festival organisers to ban Chinese lanterns. In 2011, festival organiser Michael Eavis called for a nationwide ban. Farmers' groups and animal charities have long pushed for the lanterns to be withdrawn from sale, arguing that animals can eat parts after they have landed. In 2010, a cow died from eating a piece of a lantern's wire frame, which ruptured its stomach . . ..
. . . 4. They pose a fire risk. In a nationwide survey in 2011, a third of Britain's fire brigades said they had received emergency callouts to extinguish lanterns. . . .
5. UFO sightings dramatically increased as lanterns became more popular. . . . Nick Pope, head of the MoD's UFO Project, supported the theory that many of those sightings were down to Chinese lanterns. . . .
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