Traverse City Record-Eagle

Generation Why

June 1, 2010

Fireworks celebrations harm the world

Are fireworks really the right way to celebrate the Fourth of July?

How well do we like those beautiful brilliant colors that are shot up into the air every Fourth of July? Do we like them enough to poison ourselves and our nation? These exploding lights are more dangerous than people realize. Not only do they pollute the environment, they pollute our bodies.

Pyrotechnics are very toxic due to the amount of chemicals and heavy metals used in them. Fireworks can cause a number of health problems for humans. These health issues more commonly are seen in young children and fetuses, though they have been found in adults. The illnesses that are most alarming are slower thyroid, metabolism and mental development. Pyrotechnics use a chemical called dioxin, and this particular chemical has been linked to cancer.

Fireworks also are harmful to the environment. They contaminate our water and air supply in a number of different ways. The cartons become litter both on the land and in the water. The chemicals and metals released when fired pollute the air. These contaminants also contribute to acid rain. This is a problem because then they can get into the world's food supply. This could lead to the death of animals and plants.

Don't think that the people of the United States are the only ones to be blamed for this. Although we were the ones to start the tradition of using fireworks to celebrate important historical dates, other countries also have picked up on it. In 2000, the celebration of the millennium, so many fireworks were sent flying into the air that there was a worldwide contamination of sulphur compounds and arsenic that soiled our clean air supply.

There is a company that has about 11,000 pyrotechnic shows each year, and because of its excessive use of these pyrotechnics they are trying to find an alternative way to launch them. As of right now fireworks still are being launched using gunpowder. The Walt Disney Co. is working on a way to send them sky high with compressed air. Although it does not solve the problem of the deadly chemicals and heavy metals, this method at least would eliminate a few contaminants that come from the smoke of the gunpowder. Also, this could put us a step in the right direction for bettering our country's environment.

Although this sounds like a good alternative, environmentalists and public safety advocates believe that there are better ways to celebrate our freedom and accomplishments other than the use of fireworks. They say the more ideal alternative would be to eliminate pyrotechnics altogether and use less harmful things. These alternatives would be laser light shows and block parties.

Fireworks — do we need them, or should we move forward and find a less harmful way to celebrate? The fact is the beautiful lights are very toxic and in the long run could cause either slowed development of certain organs or even death. They also contaminate our water supply and create litter on the ground. This can't be what we want for our country or the world.


Keri Allen is a senior at the TBA Career-Tech Center.

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