It's time for the annual whine about fireworks, but with fresh new reasons

Fireworks
CC BY 2.0 Christian Lambert

We do this every year, it is a tradition: I complain about fireworks and readers call me a wet blanket. Even my wife said last year "There is TreeHugger again, sucking all the fun out of life." But seriously, they are a deadly problem.

One would think, given all the problems fireworks cause, that rules would be getting tougher. In fact, 25 years ago 30 states banned the sale of fireworks and last year, only three did. According to the Christian Science Monitor, “the impressive expansion of legal fireworks in part pits a muscular post-9/11 “rockets-red-glare” patriotism against a waning sense of safety and propriety.”

In past posts I have listed many reasons why fireworks should not be part of our modern world, the most obvious being that they start many fires and much of America is suffering from drought. This year they are banned in much of the west because of this, but here are some more good reasons to consider giving them up:

particulate levels© Dian J. Seidel study

They dangerously spike the particulate levels

Small particulates have become one of the most worrisome pollutants in recent years; PM 2.5 (particulates with sizes below 2.5 micrometers) significantly affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. In the US a 24 hour average level over 35 μg/m3 is considered hazardous. But last year a study, Effects of Independence Day fireworks on atmospheric concentrations of fine particulate matter in the United States demonstrated that the 24 hour average is increased by 42 percent, spiking up to 35.

They are hard on many veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The CSM describes how one veteran leaves town and goes camping during fireworks.

“The sound of fireworks explosions just increases that tension for me,” he says, according to the profile. “The irony is not lost on me that vets like me cannot celebrate our independence.”

Fireworks can lead to hearing loss

Audiologist Nathan Williams tells the New York Times that noise levels can get high enough to do real damage.

“They’re typically above 150 decibels, and can even reach up to 170 decibels or more..Dr. Williams also sees higher traffic to his clinic after Independence Day. “We usually see a handful of people every year,” he said. “In these cases, hearing loss is more likely to be permanent.”

And perhaps, They’re just not relevant anymore

As one commenter noted on a weather site, “Maybe they should just ban the 4th of July all together since we are no longer independent and free. We take our marching orders from the UN.” I looked to see what the UN position was on fireworks but could not find one.

And here are other reasons, recycled, reused and repurposed:

They are really dangerous

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has produced a video (and Gizmodo did a neat GIF of the best parts) showing the many ways you can kill yourself with fireworks:



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Here is the video:

fireworks statistics© FiveThirtyEight

FiveThirtyEight tells us that fireworks caused roughly 11,400 injuries and eight deaths in 2013.



  • Half of the 7,400 injuries were sustained by people 19 and younger.
  • 2,300 of those injuries (31 percent) were from sparklers.
  • The body parts most likely to be injured were hands and fingers, at 36 percent, followed by head, face and ears (22 percent).
  • Two percent of injuries were sustained during public fireworks displays.

The Wills Eye Hospital warns that eye injuries are endemic, and that sparklers are particularly dangerous.

Despite the popularity of consumer fireworks, the devices can cause blindness and disfigurement and each year they prompt severe injuries across the nation including corneal burns, ruptured or lacerated eyeballs, and retinal detachments.

They are toxic and polluting

chemicalsBackcountry Attitude/Screen capture

Where do we start? With the perchlorates in the propellant that are contaminating lakes and can cause hyperthyroidism? How about the particulates that can trigger asthma? How about the strontium, barium, copper, antimony and arsenic?

They are, as noted, serious fire hazards.

The National Fire Protection Association notes:

In 2011, fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 reported fires, including 1,200 total structure fires, 400 vehicle fires, and 16,300 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in an estimated eight reported civilian deaths, 40 civilian injuries and $32 million in direct property damage.

So why, again, are more and more states actually rolling back regulations on fireworks?

And in case you missed them

2006: The Prettiest Pollutants
2007: Fireworks: Fun for the Whole Family or Dangerous Water Contaminants?
2008: Fireworks: The Annual Whine About Their Environmental Impact
2009: Oh No Mommy! Will the Greenies Take Fireworks Away From Us?
2009: Fireworks: Ungreen Or A Necessary Part Of Ringing In The New Year?
2009: Fireworks Fizzle or Fizzle Shizzle?
2010: Turkish Town Bans Fireworks to Save Sea Turtles
2011: The Annual Green Whine: It's Time To Lose The Fireworks
2012: 'In Addition to Their "Regular" Poison, Fireworks are Extra-Dangerous This Year

Tags: Holidays

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