What is it about our species that makes it so difficult for us to change?
Sometimes, no matter how obvious it may be and despite all the logic in the world, it is still not enough. Some traditions are so ingrained in our collective psyche that they are almost invisible to us – it’s just what we do. But why? Traditional customs are like stories we’ve heard from birth that have become a part of our being, right or wrong. When logic cannot intervene to help us improve our world, even when we know better, perhaps we need new stories. Please think about sharing this one.
There are plenty of ways to celebrate special events like the 4th of July that are enjoyable, meaningful and safe. Yet for some reason, it is ingrained in our culture that we must burn toxic chemicals in brief but dangerous displays that harm the environment and our health, not to mention a fair number of homes. I’m talking about fireworks. We are as attracted to these brief displays of pyrotechnic prowess as moths to bright lights. The problem is that the few moments of excitement have a much longer negative impact. Yes, fireworks are as American as apple pie and considered a sacred cow, but Green Living does not discriminate!
Let’s take safety first. Every year, thousands of people end up in emergency rooms because of injuries suffered from fireworks. Common injuries include burns to hands, arms, legs, and the face; loss of fingers and hands; and eye damage, including blindness. The unfortunate victims are often children who become scarred for life, but even trained professionals and factory workers have been severely injured. Consider that even a simple sparkler can burn at over two thousand degrees; easily igniting clothing or burning skin. Why do some think it is OK to hand these to our kids to “play” with?
Fireworks accidents are completely avoidable, simply by avoiding fireworks. It can happen to anyone in an instant. Watch this heartfelt video about one family’s tragic loss:
Every Year Fireworks Cause Home Fires
Our homes and property are also at risk. I once lived in a home with a shake roof and we had to be on guard every July 4th. People in our neighborhood lived in fear of just one errant bottle rocket or fountain spark that could ignite a hot, dry roof and destroy their home. It happens every year. There is no such thing as a “safe or sane” firework and it is time we reject that marketing illusion. Too many unfortunate incidents result from our voluntary choice to manufacture, sell and use products that are inherently dangerous and by almost any logical account, totally unnecessary.
There’s another cause of concern about fireworks: toxicity. You may escape traumatic injury to yourself or your property, but no one escapes the effects of toxins released into our environment. Isn’t our world stressed enough? Every firework display is an injury to the public commons, often in multiple forms. The stuff that makes fireworks interesting to look at comes at a price.
Imagine a father saying to his wife, “Hey darling, this evening let’s take the kids to go watch an airborne chemical fire. They’ll be burning lots of ammonium perchlorate, lead, strontium chloride and other toxic stuff! We might even be able to smell it!” Additional ingredients in fireworks include: Aluminum, antimony, barium chloride, cadmium, chlorine, copper, iron, lithium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium nitrate, rubidium, sodium, sulfur dioxide, and zinc. Most of these substances range from mildly to severely toxic and can affect human and environmental health. Each rocket burst contributes to the toxic load on our bodies. Even if you’re standing upwind of “the cloud,” those chemicals will fall on a neighbor’s yard, another state’s lakes or rivers, or lodge in someone else’s lung. Is that really OK?
It may be impossible to determine a direct link between asthma or cancer and fireworks, but that does not mean there is no connection. We know that poisoning our environment is not very smart. If logic won’t stop it, the new story we need to tell each other is that there is a connection between all things; that we cannot abuse the air, water and earth without consequences; and that even small steps can make a difference.
Green Living seeks to protect our children, our homes and our environment. It is time to declare our independence from fireworks. Let the celebration begin with that story on our lips.
Resources Regarding the Danger of Fireworks:
- Declare Your Independence from Toxic Fireworks Pollution
- 8 Fun Alternatives to Fireworks – Avoid the Danger and Toxic Pollution with These Alternate Activities
- Chris Conway’s take on toxic fireworks (lots of details and references).
- Enough of those toxic firework displays! – Guardian
- Officials warn of fireworks danger
- Fireworks warnings are nothing new – NY Times, 1987
- National Fire Protection Association – Crystal clear about the danger.
- Preventing blindness from fireworks.
- Effect on the lakes of New Hampshire (downwinders) “The Department of Environmental Services urges you to consider the effects of fireworks and perhaps find an alternative to a problem that is only growing with time.”
- Does the Dose make the Poison? NOT! Read here.
- NY man blows off arm with fireworks – CNN