Fireworks and environmental destruction

In addition to burns and death, pyrotechnics damage environment

Fireworks and environmental destruction

The use of fireworks is a dramatic situation that for years the authorities have tried to control, educating the population about the risks of manipulating this kind of explosives and its lethal consequences for both humans and animals. However, there is a factor that is rarely mentioned when discussing the harm caused by fireworks: the environmental impact.


A study, published in the scientific journal 'Environmental Science and Technology', demonstrated several years ago that the chemical compounds of fireworks pollute air, water, deteriorate wildlife, and can even generate fires. From these discoveries, different specialists have corroborated that artificial gases released during a powder explosion, such as carbon monoxide, can take between two and three days to completely disappear from air. Although these effects will pass with the count of days, they contribute to the progressive increase of pollution.


According to statistics of control organisms, during Christmas season the average values of pollution in a city that does not have restrictions on the use of gunpowder increases by 60% and 70%. The explosion of pyrotechnics, either on a large scale or individually, increases the concentration indexes of harmful particles called PM 2.5. These particles, as explained in a statement by the World Health Organization (WHO), are considered highly detrimental to human health because when inhaled they can penetrate directly into the lungs, causing respiratory diseases, cardiac complications, and brain-vascular accidents.


Beyond the human consequences, we also find the damage caused to fauna. In Colombia for instance, a country that has 19% of bird’s global biodiversity, December celebrations represent a kind of 'bombing' for this animal species. Birds are highly sensitive to sounds and explosions, when an event like this suddenly takes place - especially during the night in its resting moment - the cardiac rhythm of these animals increases to the point that they literally die from a heart attack.


This same reaction is suffered by other animal species such as dogs, cats, cows and horses. To put it on a human perspective, imagine a room where a pair of newborn babies sleep placidly and unaltered, then a packet of ballots is blown up next to their cribs and ears. The reaction and consequences that this would cause in newborns is the same and even worse in animals exposed to environments with gunpowder.


Fireworks produce three different types of pollutants:


  • Heavy metals: which are in the explosive section and are responsible for providing color.
  • Sodium Perchlorate: Oxidizing agent used in rocket propulsion.
  • Solid aerosols: Generated during detonation.


When these materials are detonated near lakes or water sources, the concentration of sodium perchlorate in water is found between 24 and 1,000 times higher than normal levels. This creates a damage in the microorganisms and could even cause human intoxication when consuming.

To put a hold to these environmental damages caused by fireworks, cities such as Beijing have banned pyrotechnic on their streets. In Latin America countries like Colombia and Mexico also implemented regulations in their main cities, with which they fine citizens who make improper use of gunpowder. However, these regulations are not counted as a national ban and other cities continue to spread the sale and manipulation of gunpowder without any restriction.

LatinAmerican Post | Krishna Jaramillo

Copy edited by Marcela Peñaloza

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