The popular devices — which are already illegal in 29 states including Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio — are becoming a more common part of local celebrations, especially the Fourth of July.
They are of the most simple of technologies, using paper, cloth and string. They use wires or bamboo for support. So-called fuel cells made of cardboard and wax allow them to float when lit. They can soar more than a thousand feet and travel for more than a mile, depending on winds.
The first, obvious potential problem is fire; where do they go and do they cause fires when they come down? Turns out while the lanterns have caused few serious fires, small fires have been reported in various places over the years.
In addition, they can sicken cattle and other animals who mistakenly ingest the devices, after they've come down in their grazing areas. On other occasions, wildlife has become entangled in the strings that are a part of construction.
Some lanterns are made of biodegradable materials, although it's unclear how long the materials actually take to degrade.
These devices certainly are good fun and we very much understand why people like them. But there are good reasons 29 other states have decided they should be illegal. We believe Michigan should be the 30th.
THE MINING JOURNAL/MARQUETTE (AP)