On the eve of the Chinese New Year, South West MEP Julie Girling
has a reason to celebrate this week after the European Commission accepted the Chinese sky lanterns often used as part of the festivities pose a safety risk and suggested they could be banned.
The Chinese lanterns, which are already banned in Germany and Lithuania, and in Australia due to their inherent risk of causing forest fires, are effectively cheap mini-hot air balloons of flimsy paper and wire, propelled upwards into the sky by the candle’s heat. Floating in the wind, they can travel as far as 30 miles before the candle burns out and the lantern shell falls to the ground.
Mrs Girling decided to take the issue to the European Commission after listening to the concerns of local farmers in her constituency that were previously dismissed by MPs in Westminster. Fire services and local maritime authorities in the region have also backed Mrs Girling’s campaign to see the lanterns banned, as lifeboats have been frequently deployed because the lanterns are often mistaken for flares.
After submitting her question to the Commission, she said: “I don’t think that the bureaucrats in Brussels actually understand how much damage these lanterns can cause. Yes, they look nice floating in the sky but when they burn off the face of a child, it’s not so pretty.
Responding to Mrs Girling, the Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli accepted the lanterns posed a risk
“due to the uncontrolled and unpredictable flight direction” and said in light of these concerns “national authorities must […] check if the notified products are sold on their markets and, when necessary, adopt measures to protect consumers. This can include the ban of sale of such products.
In a statement posted on her website this week, Mrs Girling said was pleased and vowed to work with her colleagues in Westminster to see that these lanterns are removed from sale in the UK.
The Chinese New Year will begin on Thursday, February 3rd.
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