Does Your Function Need Fireworks?: 9 Things to Consider Before Buying

Independence Day is quickly approaching. For many, this means a day full of fun with family, friends, and fireworks. However, it is also a day where many people are harmed due to the usage of fireworks. We’ve provided a list of 9 reasons to rethink celebrating the holiday with homemade fireworks displays.

1. Fireworks Can Trigger PTSD Episodes, Asthma, or Epileptic Seizures

For Veterans, fireworks may trigger traumatic memories of combat or explosions; and certain military-related celebrations may also raise distress. For others, fireworks may be reminders of intense fires or gun violence.

Fireworks can also trigger asthma because they contain air pollutants like particulate matter (PM), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and ultrafine particles (UFPs) that can irritate airways and worsen lung conditions. Short-term exposure to fireworks smoke can also increase the risk of respiratory infections and acute bronchitis. 

Fireworks can also trigger seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy (PSE), a type of reflex epilepsy that can be caused by visual stimulation. We must be considerate of people who have these mental and physical health conditions.

2. Mishandling Fireworks Can Start a Fire

People often unintentionally start fires while using fireworks when trash, debris, or chemicals are ignited. In 2021 alone, the National Fire Protection Association found that there were over 12,000 fires started due to fireworks. The risk of these fires increases as people who are operating fireworks become impaired by consuming drugs or alcohol at Independence Day celebrations.

(The video above captures children starting a fire at a Washington, D.C. apartment complex by playing with Roman candles)

3. Fires Caused by Fireworks Damage Property and are Expensive to Put Out

Fireworks caused $59 million in direct property damage in 2021according to the National Fire Protection Association. On Tuesday, June 25th, in Washington, D.C. a two-alarm fire caused by fireworks left 76 people displaced. The cost of relocation and property damage doesn’t even include the amount of money that it costs the fire department and police agencies to respond to a house fire. These fires are avoidable, and it is a waste of community resources for first responders to have to deal with them.

4. Fireworks Cause Pollution

Fireworks release pollutants like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter into the air, which can contribute to climate change and poor air quality. Fireworks can also release dangerous toxins, heavy metals, and harmful chemicals. For example, a 2023 study found that fireworks on Independence Day can increase perchlorate emissions by 42% compared to a normal day.

Fireworks can also release polluting chemicals and materials into bodies of water, including aluminum, barium, chlorine, copper, iron, and more. This pollution can harm aquatic life and disrupt the balance of ecosystems. The noise pollution caused by fireworks can also frighten wildlife, which can lead to them getting lost, abandoning their habitats, or even being hit by a vehicle.

5. 911 Dispatchers Get Overwhelmed with Calls About Fireworks on July 4th

Non-emergency calls skyrocket during the Fourth of July due to inconveniences including firework complaints and lost animal calls. People can also mistake fireworks explosions for gunshots driving up non-emergency calls. These calls can occupy emergency communications center resources and lead to waiting times for actual emergencies.  

6. Fireworks Deemed Legal in One Jurisdiction Get Transported to Jurisdictions Where they Are Illegal

Most people are not experts on what fireworks are legal in their state. And many intentionally and unintentionally purchase fireworks in states where they are legal and use them in areas where they are not. Verify that the type of fireworks you wish to use are legal to use in your state.

7. Fireworks Frighten Neighboring Cats and Dogs On the Fourth of July, many animals become so frightened by the noise and commotion of fireworks that they run from otherwise familiar environments and people, and sadly become lost. They may also suffer devastating or even fatal health effects from the stress. The sudden bright flashes and sounds can cause wild animals to run into roadways, resulting in more car accidents than normal. Wildlife rehabilitation centers are often flooded with traumatized, injured, and orphaned wild animals after the holiday.

8. Homemade Firework Shows Often Produce Litter Fireworks users often neglect to clean up refuse from spent fireworks. The litter, which includes plastic and paper with harmful chemical residue, is not biodegradable. Residents are often tasked with the burden of cleaning up debris from fireworks shows that they didn’t agree to participate in.

9. Fireworks Can Cause Bodily Harm

report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission states that in 2021, there were nine deaths and 11,500 emergency room visits resulting from incidents involving consumer fireworks. 74% of those incidents occurred around the Fourth of July. The most common injuries included burns to the hands or fingers. Using proper safety measures can help prevent these types of injuries and make sure your holiday celebrations go smoothly.

We’ve provided some ideas for those seeking alternatives to celebrating with fireworks. Laser light displays (pictured at the bottom left) are becoming more popular because they can be done inside or outdoors. Laser projectors or LED uplights are less expensive than many fireworks, and they are reusable. Bubble makers or bubble guns are fun for children. And confetti cannons (pictured at the bottom right) that use biodegradable confetti are also a great substitute for fireworks. Whichever way you choose to celebrate, we wish you and your family a happy and safe Independence Day!

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Interdynamics Inc. is a mental and behavioral health firm in Landover, MD. It was founded by Mrs. Joan Branch in 2000 as a management consulting service, but grew later into a mental and behavioral health firm

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