Fireworks have been used in celebrations across the globe to commemorate festivals like Diwali or the 4th of July since their creation in 200BC in China. They are a fantastic way to celebrate an event and certainly bring people together in the process. However, as with any explosive device, they pose a certain risk. So to what extent do any dangers outweigh their aesthetic purpose?

In the UK, fireworks are largely used to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Diwali, New Year’s Eve and Bonfire Night. The popularity of these events means the use of fireworks during these periods is prolific, which unfortunately has a negative impact on animals in the surrounding areas. According to a study conducted by the RSPCA, 62% of dogs, 54% of cats and 55% of horses exhibited signs of distress as a consequence of fireworks, demonstrating just how afflictive these explosive devices can be. However, the association also emphasises that their impact is not limited to domestic animals, extending to farm animals and general wildlife such as birds and hedgehogs. 

According to the ‘2018 Fireworks Annual Report’, there were an estimated 9,100 injuries treated in hospitals across the USA as a consequence of firework-related incidents, demonstrating their potential to cause serious damage. Councillor Andy Roberts (Worcester News) expressed ‘Personally, I don’t think it is appropriate for fireworks which are very noisy or potentially dangerous to be sold to the public’. 

Fireworks are also acknowledged to have a negative environmental impact, causing extensive air pollution through the release of residual metal particles, toxins, harmful chemicals and smoke. It can be poisonous and damaging to breathe in fine particles found in these substances, leading to respiratory issues such as asthma. The chemical and physical waste which falls to the ground following their use causes propellant chemicals and colourants to diffuse into the soil and infiltrate our water systems.

However, these risks can to some extent be avoided, as demonstrated by Sydney, Australia’s annual New Year’s Eve display, which is entirely carbon neutral. The fireworks used are manufactured from biodegradable paper, ensuring that no waste remains in the air or on the ground, whilst the city also invests in renewable energy projects through carbon offsets, to ensure that any emissions are counterbalanced. 

Indeed, certain risks associated with the use of fireworks can be avoided. However, it can’t be denied that these explosive devices have led to serious injury and environmental damage in the past. Current UK law prohibits their use from 11pm to 7am except on certain days and determines that they can only be purchased from licensed sellers within specific periods. The government claimed it takes ‘The issue of safety of fireworks very seriously. Legislation is in place to control their sale, use and misuse. We have no plans to change legislation,’ in 2018. Evidently there are already considerable restrictions in place, but the question remains- should fireworks be banned altogether, or are they still a very much beloved and valued tradition? 

By Hattie Clark