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Fireworks, Their Pollution, and Some Solutions

Jerry Goode
 


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Fireworks. Do they pose an environmental or health risk? The damage that fireworks causes has been argued for some time. Which side is right? In todays world where we try to save the environment a little bit at a time, what can we do about fireworks? I love watching fireworks as much as the next person, but how badly are we affected by them? Fireworks are certainly not green, we all have undoubtedly seen the mess the day after fourth of July. Is there a way to celebrate while reducing the amount of unnecessary pollutants?

Fireworks certainly pose some environmental and health risks. As much as people would like to believe the amount of pollution caused by the actual fireworks going off is minimal, there are many more ways that fireworks cause pollution. The first obvious form comes as air pollution. Fireworks’ smoke contains traces of heavy metals (used to make different colors and affects in fireworks) along with a mixture of sulfur-coal compounds and other toxic gases and chemicals. The actual cloud made from the combustion itself also contains harmful gases like ozone, nitric oxide and sulfur dioxide. The next form comes as water pollution, the fallout from fireworks eventually contaminate our water supplies, be it our oceans, lakes, or rivers. The last type of pollution caused by the fireworks’ blasts would be noise pollution. Some of the larger fireworks displays easily surpass 140 decibels, which is well past the 85 decibel mark where hearing can be damaged.

The argument that is usually made for fireworks is that they are not that bad, thats about a weak an argument I have ever found. Fireworks are usually not going off everyday, that much is true. Perhaps the minimal amount of smoke we breath in will not kill us, but is it truly necessary? I doubt many people would enjoy taking in a breath of smoke instead of breathing in fresh air. There is no argument that can truly make the water pollution justifiable. As for the noise pollution, one must be pretty close to truly be affected by the blast. However, those that live in an area where public fireworks are displayed have no choice but to hear the fireworks. And lets not forget our pets, which are usually scared by all the commotion.

Solutions are available that would compromise with less, if not any pollution at all. If fireworks are a must in all their glory, why not try using air-launch technology. It is simply a system that uses compressed air instead of gunpowder. Another option would be to use low-smoke pyrotechnics which reduce the amount of traditional smoke and ash, but they can still emit harmful greenhouse gases. Now if you can do without the traditional fireworks, then there a couple more environmentally friendly options. One option would be a laser light show that is not harmful to our health or environment. Another option that does not contain the pollution or noise of real fireworks is an electronic fireworks display.

As we all seek different ways to help our planet, changes will and have been getting made. Sometimes tradition is harder to change than our daily habits, but the sooner we make a tradition of being green the better for generations after us. Hope this brings to light that there are solutions that can be made without necessarily sacrificing the celebration.

Jerry Goode

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