Here in the Netherlands when summer holidays are over and people begin going back to work or school, fireworks importers and the companies that sell fireworks start preparing for the fireworks season to begin. Initially they host fireworks sample shows for the shop owners and consumers, then arrange production in China to be pushed to its limit to fulfill our seemingly insatiable pyrotechnic lust.
Unfortunately, it’s not all happiness and comets here as our brightly colored fireworks meet the horizon. An ever-increasing negative media blitz generally precedes our annual gunpowder-driven pyrofests. But critically analyzing our behavior and the resultant affects on our communities isn’t always a bad thing. In essence, the ability to examine what we do and why we do it is what defines us as responsible human beings. The process, though, is only helpful if arguments and solutions are rational and based on actual facts. This is where our noble intentions get lost somewhere. Most often the arguments against fireworks are neither rational nor truthful.
The following are the top two inflammatory issues propagated by the media regarding fireworks each year. These issues are annually dusted off, recharged with some new rhetoric and presented to the public as “new” concerns before the first fuse ever meets the flame.
Yes, lighting fireworks leaves chemical residues. No denying it. Anti-fireworks protestors however, boldly exaggerate the amount of residue that fireworks leave in its wake. First of all, the environmental footprint left by consumer fireworks in the Netherlands is hardly measurable. It’s extremely marginal when compared to more serious matters like the air pollutants created by traffic, industrial smokestacks or the fact that the Netherlands has a fossil-fuel dependency that results in exceptionally high carbon emissions. One reason the environmental impact of fireworks is so miniscule is that its usage is so tightly restricted: fireworks here are only allowed between 6:00 PM on December 31st and 2:00 AM January 1st. Factually, whatever gasses or residual “fallback” occur during New Year’s Eve festivities is readily absorbed by nature within hours.
Facts aside, the media continually perpetuate their stories about the polluting power of fireworks, and how the metallic powders used (substances like lead for “crackling”, as an example) are seriously bad for the environment. What they DON’T tell you, however, is most of the more dangerous chemicals comprising fireworks (again, like lead for “crackling”) were replaced long ago by relatively harmless chemicals instead.
Truth be told, the fireworks industry is continuously researching ways to “clean up” the process by developing “recyclable” cake boxes and biodegradables. This also helps many companies during the assembly process as well.
Fireworks cause a lot of damage
Just like any other product or material, fireworks used in the wrong way or unsafely can lead to disastrous results. The subtitle should actually be: “Stupid people do stupid things with fireworks”. The question that really needs to be asked when “accidents” occur is: was it the result of the product, or a general lack of intellect. If you use consumer fireworks the way they are intended to be used, and take adequate safety precautions (e.g., like wearing safety goggles and keeping safe distances from ignited fireworks) the chances of accidents are minimalized.
What else can be done to limit the possibility of any potential damage? First, people need to understand that lighting fireworks is an intentional act that requires adequate preparation. We should be proactive and better educate fireworks enthusiasts. Instead of letting children figure out how to use fireworks completely on their own, parents should supervise them and instruct them about safe and correct usage. Next, law enforcement should make it very clear dangerous usage and “accidents” with fireworks that are the result of improper use and negligence will be prosecuted. Fines should be levied to cover any damages done to property. In addition, these fines will also help insure that people will be more cognizant of the rules that make fireworks safe and enjoyable for everyone.
Obviously, there is still a great deal of work to be done regarding fireworks. As fireworks enthusiasts (and professionals) we should definitely help educate anyone we see using fireworks—especially if we see them being used unsafely or incorrectly. Speaking up will help guarantee that we can continue to use them here. Also, if possible, ask people you know not to so readily accept the anti-firework hyperbole of the media. The facts don’t support banning fireworks—in spite of the skewed stories and one-sided reporting seem to indicate.
In Holland the fireworks industry is facing a particularly oddbacklash regarding a story that turned out to be entirely fabricated. It seems some unscrupulous person reported people’s pets being killed by fireworks. Without checking the facts, the media pounced on this story and the public reaction was swift and horrific calling for a ban on ALL fireworks. Even though this story was entirely false (as were other similar stories that suddenly surfaced) the damage was already done and it was difficult to convince people that there was no truth to them. After all, headlines sell newspapers and make people watch the evening news; retractions are hidden on the back pages, or left entirely out of the next broadcast.
Regrettably, there are many falsely contrived negative stories still circulating about fireworks like these. They do a great deal of damage to our cause and solidify public opinion unfairly against us. It is up to all of us who truly love to use fireworks to set the record straight when we are able and not stand idly by and allow falsehood and propaganda to dictate governmental policy that may someday ban fireworks all together.