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fireworks  the most effective way to instantly ruin your new year s resolution of becoming more sustainable | Newsletter

Fireworks: the most effective way to instantly ruin your New Year’s resolution of becoming more sustainable

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by: Hans van der Broek
fireworks  the most effective way to instantly ruin your new year s resolution of becoming more sustainable | Newsletter

Watching the fireworks

New Year’s Eve. While most of us will have plenty of activities on the night itself, sipping champagne, watching the traditional tv-shows and playing games with family, there are quite a number of people who enjoy another recurring tradition: watching the fireworks.

Whether you opt for looking out from behind the relative safety of your window, gawking at the professional show amidst thousands of others in a crowded square, or going out to light up the sky yourself. Fireworks are mesmerizing, dreamy, and very romantic. But at the same time, they are not exactly great for the environment.

Fireworks yellow castle wall
Photo by: Gregie Bertaud

And while it will not be a thing most of us are wanting to hear, because ‘it is tradition and a symbolic way of welcoming the new year…’ Well, just hear me out if you want to optimize the number of new years that future generations will get to enjoy as well.

The colorful, artistic lights flickering in the sky, accompanied by rhythmic booms reverberating in our hearts, will fill us with joy. With happy and perhaps not so happy memories of the year that we just said goodbye to. With hope and anticipation for the year to come. It will fill us with love and with good intentions. And with harmful particulates and elements.

Unfortunately all the things that make fireworks so pretty and attractive are exactly those things that make them so bad for us. Gunpowder will help it lift off and reach the sky. Metallic compounds give it its gorgeous colors. All of these elements are made up of carcinogenic and hormone-disrupting substances, that can make its way into our soil, air, and water.

Some of those really bad guys that are present in commonly used fireworks include perchlorates. These are responsible for the explosion, as they feed oxygen in the charcoal-sulfur fuel that powers up the explosive, serving as the so-called oxidizers. The pyrotechnics industry is particularly looking at two types of perchlorates for this: potassium perchlorate and ammonium perchlorate. 

Fancy names for something so inherently bad, as they can cause all kind of health problems, most significantly hypothyroidism: an illness that limits the thyroid’s ability to ingest iodine, which will lead to a lack of hormones in the human body - hindering all kind of bodily functions and potentially giving rise to all kind of disorders, especially in children. 

Then there are particulates. These can be found in the smoke resulting from the burned charcoal and sulfur and will make their way to our lungs. This could pose an instant danger for those suffering from asthma-related diseases. Merely looking at an air-quality monitor spiking out in the hours after a fireworks show should get you concerned about the air that you are breathing. 

There are even more rather ominous sounding elements that can be found in your firecrackers, flares and Roman candles. Strontium, aluminum, copper, barium, rubidium, cadmium: terms that you might remember from your chem class as being rather delicate and dangerous substances, yet that are freely used to color our fireworks. All of them carry nasty side-effects when ingested in high doses, including impairment of bone growth, mental disorders, Alzheimer’s, cancer, skin diseases, paralysis, heart problems and - in the worst case - death. 

Translation? For the next few days or weeks, you will be eating, drinking, and breathing all kind of highly toxic and destructive particles. You’re welcome.

Some will object at this point, claiming that it cannot be that bad. Fireworks are, after all, not an everyday event (that is, unless you work in Disney World). And are those one or two days per year that we shoot all kinds of garbage up in the atmosphere really something worth worrying over? Especially as the industrial sector keeps on regurgitating substances that are seemingly identical on a daily basis? 

Admittedly, the chances of attracting any of the diseases given above for the volumes going up in the air on New Years are so small that they could be considered insignificant. Yet we should not just think about ourselves (which might coincidentally just be another of your New Year’s resolutions), but consider the impact on our environment as well. Some cities will experience more smog and air pollution on New Year’s Day alone than in the previous year as a whole. That is a fact. 

These toxins will get in the atmosphere, in the soil, in the water. Aquatic life will suffer, cows eating polluted grass will pass it on to us through our hamburgers. With every piece of firework launched, a toxic rain will fall down on our lands that will impact all living beings. And the worst part? The majority of these chemicals are persistent, which means that they will not break down in nature, but stay in our ecosystems indefinitely. 

And no, there has not been enough research performed yet to be able to state with certainty that fireworks do actually pose an instant, immediate danger to us and the world around us. But the evidence as given above will, if anything, make perfectly clear that it cannot possibly be any good. 

Only clinging onto it for the sake of tradition, would be silly - and hugely negligent.

Cover photo by: Mervyn Chan

https://www.whatsorb.com/category/waste

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World traveler, entrepreneur and environmental activist. Has countless ideas and set up several businesses in the Netherlands and abroad. Has an opinion about everything and unlimited thoughts about a better world. He likes hiking and climbed numerous 5.000 m.
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World traveler, entrepreneur and environmental activist. Has countless ideas and set up several businesses in the Netherlands and abroad. Has an opinion about everything and unlimited thoughts about a better world. He likes hiking and climbed numerous 5.000 m.
Updates on environmental sustainability, every month in your mailbox!
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Fireworks: the most effective way to instantly ruin your New Year’s resolution of becoming more sustainable

Watching the fireworks New Year’s Eve. While most of us will have plenty of activities on the night itself, sipping champagne, watching the traditional tv-shows and playing games with family, there are quite a number of people who enjoy another recurring tradition: watching the fireworks. Whether you opt for looking out from behind the relative safety of your window, gawking at the professional show amidst thousands of others in a crowded square, or going out to light up the sky yourself. Fireworks are mesmerizing, dreamy, and very romantic. But at the same time, they are not exactly great for the environment. Photo by: Gregie Bertaud And while it will not be a thing most of us are wanting to hear, because ‘it is tradition and a symbolic way of welcoming the new year…’ Well, just hear me out if you want to optimize the number of new years that future generations will get to enjoy as well. The colorful, artistic lights flickering in the sky, accompanied by rhythmic booms reverberating in our hearts, will fill us with joy. With happy and perhaps not so happy memories of the year that we just said goodbye to. With hope and anticipation for the year to come. It will fill us with love and with good intentions.  And with harmful particulates and elements. U nfortunately all the things that make fireworks so pretty and attractive are exactly those things that make them so bad for us. Gunpowder will help it lift off and reach the sky. Metallic compounds give it its gorgeous colors. All of these elements are made up of carcinogenic and hormone-disrupting substances, that can make its way into our soil, air, and water . Some of those really bad guys that are present in commonly used fireworks include perchlorates. These are responsible for the explosion, as they feed oxygen in the charcoal-sulfur fuel that powers up the explosive, serving as the so-called oxidizers. The pyrotechnics industry is particularly looking at two types of perchlorates for this: potassium perchlorate and ammonium perchlorate.   Fancy names for something so inherently bad, as they can cause all kind of health problems, most significantly hypothyroidism: an illness that limits the thyroid’s ability to ingest iodine, which will lead to a lack of hormones in the human body - hindering all kind of bodily functions and potentially giving rise to all kind of disorders, especially in children.   Then there are particulates. These can be found in the smoke resulting from the burned charcoal and sulfur and will make their way to our lungs. This could pose an instant danger for those suffering from asthma-related diseases. Merely looking at an air-quality monitor spiking out in the hours after a fireworks show should get you concerned about the air that you are breathing.   There are even more rather ominous sounding elements that can be found in your firecrackers, flares and Roman candles. Strontium, aluminum, copper, barium, rubidium, cadmium: terms that you might remember from your chem class as being rather delicate and dangerous substances, yet that are freely used to color our fireworks. All of them carry nasty side-effects when ingested in high doses, including impairment of bone growth, mental disorders, Alzheimer’s, cancer, skin diseases, paralysis, heart problems and - in the worst case - death.   Translation? For the next few days or weeks, you will be eating, drinking, and breathing all kind of highly toxic and destructive particles. You’re welcome. Some will object at this point, claiming that it cannot be that bad. Fireworks are, after all, not an everyday event (that is, unless you work in Disney World). And are those one or two days per year that we shoot all kinds of garbage up in the atmosphere really something worth worrying over? Especially as the industrial sector keeps on regurgitating substances that are seemingly identical on a daily basis?   Admittedly, the chances of attracting any of the diseases given above for the volumes going up in the air on New Years are so small that they could be considered insignificant. Yet we should not just think about ourselves (which might coincidentally just be another of your New Year’s resolutions), but consider the impact on our environment as well. Some cities will experience more smog and air pollution on New Year’s Day alone than in the previous year as a whole. That is a fact.   These toxins will get in the atmosphere, in the soil, in the water. Aquatic life will suffer , cows eating polluted grass will pass it on to us through our hamburgers. With every piece of firework launched, a toxic rain will fall down on our lands that will impact all living beings. And the worst part? The majority of these chemicals are persistent, which means that they will not break down in nature, but stay in our ecosystems indefinitely.   And no, there has not been enough research performed yet to be able to state with certainty that fireworks do actually pose an instant, immediate danger to us and the world around us. But the evidence as given above will, if anything, make perfectly clear that it cannot possibly be any good.   Only clinging onto it for the sake of tradition, would be silly - and hugely negligent. Cover photo by: Mervyn Chan https://www.whatsorb.com/category/waste