The use of sky lanterns have been banned by the Malta Standards Authority with immediate effect.

In a statement the authority said that the sky lanterns, also known as wish lanterns, were deemed unsafe and posed a serious risk to consumers.

These lanterns are frequently used during festivities, fairs and celebrations. They operate by igniting a liquid or a small solid fuel slab which is located and held in place at the lower extremities of a fabric or paper dome-shaped bag which inflates by the action of hot gases being released from the burning fuel.

Once inflated, the lanterns are released into the atmosphere where they float haphazardly out of control of the human user. Such mode of operation may cause the lantern to glide onto flammable or highly combustible materials such as houses, fields and cars, thus posing an obvious risk to third party individuals and property, the authority said.

It said that due to these risks, such lanterns were banned in several other European states and were known to have ignited fires in other countries.

The authority told operators that if these lanterns were found on the market during inspections carried out by market surveillance officers, the economic operator would be liable to legal action as prescribed by law.