Comment: The fireworks shortage presents the perfect opportunity for change
In the age of COVID-19, “shortage” is becoming a household word. But unlike the lack of toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and flour, the shortage of fireworks could prove to be beneficial.
In its latest annual fireworks report, the Consumer Products Safety Commission estimated that in 2019, emergency rooms in US hospitals treated 10,000 patients for fireworks-related injuries. The agency has received reports of at least 12 fireworks-related deaths, but points out that the real number is likely higher.
Additionally, the National Fire Protection Association has found that pyrotechnics start an average of nearly 20,000 fires each year, causing more than $ 100 million in property damage. And often the insurance won’t foot the bill.
Unfortunately, these explosives also cause thousands of forest fires each year with devastating consequences for the forests and the animals in them. And with the current drought conditions in many parts of the country, the forest fires this year could be particularly destructive.
Fires are not the only threat posed to wildlife by pyrotechnics. In areas where fireworks have been set off, surfaces and groundwater are frequently contaminated with perchlorate, a carcinogen common in explosives. Animals can also ingest or be injured by unexploded shells, pieces of plastic and other debris left behind.
And during noisy demonstrations, frightened deer and other animals frequently collide with roads and birds flee their nests. After a fireworks display in Arkansas, the bodies of around 5,000 Red-winged Blackbirds began to rain down from the sky. The birds panicked and took flight but, due to their poor night vision, crashed into houses, signs and other obstacles, causing blunt trauma and death.
On New Years Eve last year, people set off fireworks in Rome, Italy, despite the city’s ban, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of birds on the city’s streets . The International Organization for Animal Welfare speculated that in addition to dying in crashes, another cause of death was fear-induced heart attacks. Other birds died after choking on thick plumes of chemical-laden smoke.
Bombs that explode in the air can disturb veterans, young children, and anyone sensitive to loud sounds, but they are often fatal to dogs and cats, whose hearing is more sensitive than ours.
Animal shelters have discovered that after New Years Eve and July 4, they receive a record number of reports of caretakers whose animals have jumped fences, torn screen doors or jumped out of windows in an attempt to escape. noise. Many never return home.
The problem became so widespread that last July, animal rescue organizations in Los Angeles set up microchip scanning stations throughout the city where residents could take stray animals in the hope of reunite them with their families.
But there is an easy solution. And we don’t have to give up our celebrations, or even radically change them. The scarcity of fireworks displays and soaring prices this year provide cities with the perfect opportunity to try cool, safer, greener and more humane laser light shows. They are also more economical, as municipalities can use the same lights year after year to create different dazzling displays. Lasers can mimic traditional fireworks as well as any other imaginable image and can even be choreographed with fountains and music.
And there are plenty of options for safe celebrations at home, too. Parenthood suggests confetti poppers, phosphorescent bubbles, explosive foam, glow sticks, “sparklers” made from glittering ribbons and “firecracker goops” made from Pop Rocks.
We don’t need real rockets to celebrate Independence Day any more than we need real ghosts to enjoy Halloween. When a simple change can protect the environment and save countless lives, isn’t it worth a try?
Michelle Kretzer is a senior writer for the PETA Foundation in Norfolk, Virginia.