The most memorable fireworks for me were in Paris: I was 20, a student in love with French literature and the most beautiful city in the world. It was July 14, the national holiday, there was a neighborhood dance in the street where I lived, and we only stopped dancing to watch the glorious fireworks that lit the skies over the river Seine.
That was long ago, an age of environmental innocence; the words pollution, environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and the rest of the sad and alarming vocabulary weren’t yet part of our daily reality and consciousness.
It’s certainly harder to enjoy fireworks today as it begs too many environmental questions, though apparently not for the organizers of the BUGLASAN festival. A quick look at material on fireworks shows some holding the opinion that they don’t do much harm as fireworks are rarely held and that smoke and dust are quickly blown away. Others like Russell McLendon express concern on the Mother Earth Network: “Fireworks can unleash a shower of toxins into soil and water, and scientists are only beginning to figure out what that means for human health.”
There seem to be many reasons for concern. The gunpowder used to fuel the trajectory of the fireworks contains perchlorates that are mostly incinerated in the air, however, the EPA or US Environment Protection Agency says that some is not combusted and winds up in the environment. A lake in Oklahoma showed 1000 times the normal concentration level of percholates 14 hours after a firework display. In high doses, perchlorates can affect the human thyroid.
Metallic compounds are used to produce colors and effects: barium for brilliant greens, copper compounds for blue (containing dioxins that are carcinogenic), aluminium for white, strontium for red, rubidium percholates 14 hours after a firework display. In high doses, perchlorates can affect the human thyroid.
Metallic compounds are used to produce colors and effects: barium for brilliant greens, copper compounds for blue (containing dioxins that are carcinogenic), aluminium for white, strontium for red, rubidium for purple and others like cadmium, antimony, lead and potassium nitrate that in high doses can be toxic, hormone-disrupting or carcinogenic. All this produces the thrilling bursts of color and light, not to mention the explosions of sound that people also seem to enjoy. Then follows the dust and smoke that contains respirable fine particulates that can stay in the air for three hours, lodge in the lungs and cause respiratory problems. Think of the little children parents have brought along for the fun. There’s more : fine plastic debris can be scattered into the atmosphere and fall to the already polluted ground.
If only in the name of caution and the general reduction of pollutants in an already overly-polluted world, the need to further burden the environment with an excessive and unconscionable fireworks display is a serious question that the organizers of this and other fiestas must ask themselves. So it’s become a habit to celebrate with fireworks, but should we keep it up?
According to the Ecologist, millennium celebrations in 2000 caused environmental pollution worldwide, filling skies over populated areas with “carcinogenic sulphur compounds and airborne arsenic.” Some US states and local governments are restricting fireworks displays and Hawaii is considering banning it altogether. Maybe we can grow up and become responsible stewards of the earth?