New Year, special birthdays (or any if you are an A-Lister), weddings, Halloween… in fact, almost all events can be haloed with the appropriate sky backdrop of thrusting rockets, sparkling sprays and indiscriminate exploding bangs, oh my! Fireworks really draw in a crowd and look great on your Instagram photos… both eye-catching, momentous and exhilarating, but what of any downsides? 

Of course, fireworks are best known for the 5th November, ‘Guy Fawkes’ Night,’ commemorating an attempt to level the Houses of Parliament to the ground. Certainly, fireworks therefore have some prominence in tradition, but we should also note that this family-friendly celebration celebrates an attempt which, if proven successful, would have resulted in devastating consequences.

Many, but particularly the elderly and vulnerable members of our society can suffer trauma from the sounds of fireworks mimicking the sounds of the invading local Luftwaffe, in Cobham no less. One person I interviewed who owns a Residential Care Home in Epping, stated “we celebrate all things but abstain from using fireworks, many of our residents remember the World Wars and were even involved in some of them… these noises can be terrifying for a confused person suffering with dementia or mental disorder and it doesn’t take much for them to think they are in the middle of the war all over again…”

Our canine friends, among other animals, are also traumatised, running for cover and barking possessed upon every bang, pop and swizzle… one person I interviewed stated “my dogs are petrified of fireworks – they bark all bloody night, even when it is over, and they are usually shaking uncontrollably for a little while and need attention.” She struggles with fireworks with both of them and stated that “when you have dogs, you really notice how terrifying fireworks must be for those that do not understand what a firework is.” 

But we are not immune ourselves either, I remember public safety adverts describing people who lost finger and hands and sight for being reckless with a firework after it had returned to land… Another woman I spoke to said that they created a small fireworks event for a Halloween Party and later that night, her ten-year-old daughter was “rushed to hospital with the worst asthma attack she’d ever had. It was so scary, and we never did fireworks again because it was so loud and the smoke, that it triggered her asthma.”

Looking at the larger impact on the environment, fireworks cause a lot of air pollution and leave dangerous metal toxins in the atmosphere. Harmful chemicals and smoke remain in the air for days, and some toxins never actually disintegrate – they stay, forever poisoning all they come into contact with. 

How do we stop this? Here are my top tips to try and reduce, or even better, eliminate, the use of fireworks: 

  • Use sparklers. They are far smaller and safer. They also make no sound.
  • Buy a projector to conjure images of light up fireworks. You can still watch the display, but through the safety of a screen.
  • Buy laser sticks/ glow sticks. These are fun and safe; anyone can enjoy them. They cause no toxicities. 
  • For a pretty light display, use lanterns or candles instead of fireworks. There is no explosivity and far less danger.
  • Try out different games! Have a festival centered around bubbles or clay or something else you can play with.
  • Use eco-friendly fireworks that have a clean burning fuel and produce little smoke and require little metal-based salt.

By Isabella Beling