Friday, 2 August 2013

Fireworks: The Ugly Truth

This week included a pretty important day for Country A. There were big celebrations, and obviously, there were fireworks. Now, I like watching fireworks once in a while, but they don’t hold any special significance for me. And I have no problem whatsoever if there aren't any.

Photographing fireworks is HARD.

Fireworks are filled with chemicals, including toxic heavy metals like barium, lead, mercury salts, antimony, copper, and strontium. Where do they go? They don't just magically disappear after they're let off, or get burnt and converted into harmless steam. No, these poisonous substances stay in the atmosphere, they percolate the soil, they contaminate the water. Eventually, all those beautiful fireworks work their way to your system, into your food, your water, and least controllably, into your lungs. The air smells putrid after a firework show. It causes breathing problems in people without them, and exacerbates it for asthmatics. Let's not forget about the carcinogenics either.


What about the big bang most make? It almost feels like there's a mentality of "the louder the bang, the better the firework.” Prolonged exposure to sounds above 85 decibels causes hearing loss. Regular conversation takes place at around 60 decibels. Compare this to fireworks, which at their peak can reach up to 150 decibels! (The higher the decibels, the shorted the time exposure required to cause hearing loss and related problems) A big concern for me are also the animals and birds. Usually, fireworks are let off at night, which is when most animals and birds sleep. They get scared by the noise; get woken from their sleep; baby birds fall from their nests. They get startled, and it sends them to panic. Pets get extremely unnerved too. A large number of dogs and cats are reported missing shortly after festivals which incorporate fireworks. My late German Shepherd dog used to make a racket every New Year's eve. I'd stay awake with him till 4 a.m. every time, till the noises subsided and he'd calmed down. I could see how much it affected him.

One more thing we hardly give a thought to are their production and storage. Fireworks contain lots of explosives, and that, coupled with the harmful chemicals, make for a horrendous combination for workers in factories producing them, and for people handling them.

Do we really need all these fireworks? Do they serve any purpose? Yes, they look pretty when they light up the sky. The sheer variety leaves me flabbergasted. The colours are beautiful. The sparkles are magical. Is it worth all the poison and contamination, though? Is it fine to disrupt the lives of all other living beings around us for our entertainment? To pollute our environment to this extent?

As much as I'd like to say we should eliminate fireworks all together, I fear it isn't a feasible option for many, at least not yet. A good alternative to having hour long displays of fireworks and lots of extremely loud bangs, would be to let off just a select few low-noise ones, which will be enough to satiate the crowd's hunger for a good show. After all, who watches a firework display beyond the first few minutes? After that, it's all the same.


  1. I have always avoided fireworks during New Year's Eve in my native country. I wasn't fond of the noise. Good thing in the Middle East, people go to firework displays at particular locations if they're ever interested and it's not necessarily done by each household so it doesn't get too much. Burning money aside, I preferred staying indoors and being with family over a nice meal on New Year's Eve.

    1. The noise and the stinky, stinging acrid fumes keep me indoors, if nothing else. I'm a believer of quiet, "family-time" celebrations too.

      Back in college, the town I stayed at was celebrating a local festival one day, and the number of fireworks each house And the community let off was massive. What did I do? I went to bed at 8:30 p.m. with the windows closed and my sleep mask on. I usually never sleep before 11.

  2. Oh mein I love fireworks. It's probably because we have it so rarely...and it never lasts for more than an hour. Most people don't do their own. In fact if I'm not mistaken its illegal...not too sure about this part though..

  3. I have asthma, so I'm in quite a dilemma when it comes to celebrations involving fireworks. On one hand, I like watching them. But on the other, the fumes will leave me miserable for the next two days. And I absolutely DETEST the noisy ones.

    Very thoughtful post, and I loved the last two lines in particular. Good observation!