A company selling sky lanterns in a “misguided” attempt to support the NHS has said it will not stop its campaign despite widespread concerns – insisting the products are safe.
Night Sky Lanterns is selling the £6 Union Flag products, stating that “all together, we will be releasing Union Jack sky lanterns from gardens and driveways of houses across the UK, every Sunday night, until this unprecedented situation has been overcome”.
The website states that 100% of money raised from the lanterns’ sale will be “donated to support UK National Health Service to fight Covid-19 and help to tackle this pandemic with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)”.
A spokesman for the RSPCA told H&H it is “wonderful that people are looking for ways to show their support for the NHS staff and other key workers at this challenging time”.
But she added: “While sky lanterns might look pretty in the sky, they pose a serious danger to horses, farm animals and wildlife. Sadly, many people are unaware of the potentially deadly consequences the release of sky lanterns can have for animals — they can suffer through ingestion, entanglement and entrapment, or simply the sight of a lit lantern in the sky can be terrifying for them and cause them to bolt and harm themselves.
“We know many people are already aware of the dangers sky lanterns pose to animals, and we hope others will instead choose to show their support and gratitude to key workers in other ways such as clapping from their homes, placing decorated signs in their windows, donating whatever they can to worthy causes, and of course, staying safely at home where possible.”
The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) described the campaign as “misguided”.
“All emergency services are currently under increased pressure owing to Covid-19,” the council said in a statement. “NFCC believes the suggestion that people should set off highly flammable lanterns – at a time when wildfires are likely to be on the increase due to the weather conditions – should be highly discouraged.
“NFCC does not advocate the use of sky lanterns and we do not believe they should be used under any circumstances.”
Council chair Roy Wilsher added that the NFCC is urging people to look for other ways to show their support to the NHS.
“NFCC does not advocate the use of sky lanterns and we do not believe they should be used under any circumstances,” he said.
“All emergency services are currently under unprecedented pressure and I am concerned this type of activity could not only put additional pressure on the fire service, but further strain on the NHS.
“If a sky lantern causes a fire, it could mean firefighters spending valuable time dealing with what could be a complex and large-scale incident. Time that could be spent supporting vulnerable people in the community, as part of the fire service’s response to Covid-19.”
The owner of Night Sky Lanterns said there were no plans to stop selling the Union Flag products.
The company states that the lanterns are eco-friendly, biodegradable and recyclable, made without wire, metal parts or asbestos, using fireproof paper and an “innovative” wick made of cloth, which “ensures that after burning the combustible, it will crumble in air before the lanterns start its descending”.
The owner told H&H the products are safe, and should not be compared to cheaper lanterns that include wire and asbestos, which can cause issues.
He added that the company has been on contact with the government to call for minimum standards for sky lanterns, and that cheaper versions’ prices may reflect their inferior quality and safety.
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“We’ve had lots of messages and we’re very upset by them,” he said. “We’ve been trying to eliminate all concerns for the sake of everyone including farmers, one of whom is my father.
“They’re as safe as a candle; how safe is a candle, or a car? You wouldn’t ban all cars because some people think it’s right to drink-drive, and it’s the same with sky lanterns.”
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