Opinion: Are fireworks worth the damage they cause?

9 November 2017

Over the weekend millions of people in the United Kingdom attended fireworks displays celebrating Guy Fawkes Night. The bright colorful displays leave crowds in awe, however according to Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents around one thousand people are injured each year, with five percent of these injuries being serious.

Fireworks can cause injuries in a number of ways, the burning embers that fall from the sky can cause fires, rogue fireworks shooting into the crowd can cause burns; this is what happened in Liverpool as a crowd had to flee from fireworks. In Bristol a four-year-old girl was burned as a firework exploded into a crowd and an elderly couple’s house was burnt down after a stray firework shot into their property.

There is also the concern of fireworks falling into the wrong hands, being so freely available means anyone over 18 has access to them, however people do not always have the best intentions. At the weekend a man was left fighting for his life after youths posted live fireworks through his door, causing the whole house to burn down. Last year in Sheffield police were attacked by youths who threw fireworks at them, when backup arrived they too were attacked. This year Sheffield police had to deal with more firework attacks after youths were found throwing fireworks down a road in Darnall on Halloween, the police are still hunting for the suspects.

It’s not only the police force who face the threat of youths, a cat was killed on bonfire night in Derbyshire after two fireworks were strapped to it and then set off, the savagery of attacking a defenceless animal leads to the question- why is there such easy access? Fireworks are a type of explosive; they can be extremely dangerous when they are not in a controlled environment with experts on hand.

Whilst fireworks may be fun for some, for military veterans’ fireworks can be traumatic as they can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder, which can cause intense anxiety and bring back the nightmares of war. The loud noise can trigger flashbacks of devastating events from their time in the war. This can result in extreme stress, depression and anxiety, which is hardly fair on the men and woman who have fought for our freedom.

There is also a large concern environmentally, both for wildlife and pollution. Toxic chemicals, including barium nitrate, are used to create the colours in fireworks. In Disneyland Paris the large quantities of toxins in the air created by the fireworks caused locals to complain of breathing difficulties. As well as this wildlife find fireworks extremely distressing, their instinct is to escape however in an urban landscape this is not possible and often results in severe stress, injury or death.

Household pets also find fireworks extremely distressing due to their loud nature. Many owners are forced to stay at home between November and January as fireworks are so frequent during these months. Horses have to be moved from their paddocks, cats have to be kept inside and dogs need constant reassurance. For smaller animals, such as Guinea pigs and hamsters, it can be even more distressing as the stress can be severe due to their size, in some cases causing heart attacks.

A petition to ban the sale of fireworks to the general public in the UK was submitted during the 2010–2015 Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition government, the petition had 28,343 signatures but was closed early due to a general election. The Government concluded that fireworks should not be banned for sale to, or use by, the general public. There is a current petition to change the laws governing to use of fireworks to include a ban on public use, this petition now has 98,981, and it is still increasing. Thousands of people think a ban on public use is the best way to go, it would prevent reckless use, hazards, and allow veterans to know exactly when and where displays will be.

Each year more people are injured, more accidents happen, more fireworks fall into the wrong hands, and more animals are harmed. If it continues this way, it will not be long before something more serious happens. How can we condone the damage fireworks cause? The trauma they bring to veterans, the elderly, animals, and the environment, it is not worth five minutes of lights in the sky. Fireworks are dangerous, they are explosives hidden behind pretty colours, we all need to ask ourselves, what are my values? Do I care more about something that will look good on Instagram? Or do I care about other people, the environment, animals- do I care about the world around me? The world needs more compassion and selflessness; it starts small and if one less firework means one less person or animal being hurt or scared, then you’ve already made a difference.

Written by Jessica Matthews

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