By Toni Bailey
Why do we continue to have the 4th of July holiday with fireworks? Because it’s a tradition? A tradition that began 2,000 years ago in China.
Last 4th of July, my husband and I were camping in Anacortes. I never thought about how much the 4th of July costs each one of us, both physically and emotionally.
On July 2, we awakened to a loud noise, what seemed like an explosion. It was a large firework. I thought it was just outside our campsite, but it was actually somewhere by the water not far away. After the detonation, there was a piercing cry from birds – a cry so loud, it brought tears to my eyes. Their cries lasted several minutes.
In researching the effects that fireworks has on our birds, I found that in 2010, in Beebe, Arkansas over 5,000 red-winged black birds were killed or dying after a fireworks display. See the NY Times article.
January 2021 – hundreds of birds were found dead in Rome after being frightened to death by fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Hundreds of Dead Birds Litter Rome Streets After New Year’s Fireworks (insider.com)
The noise of fireworks can cause birds’ tachycardia and even death by fright. The degree of stress birds experience is indicated by the fact that birds may temporarily or permanently abandon the places where they live.
When fireworks occur where birds are resting, the birds are so scared, they simultaneously fly out into the night in panic. They fly into trees, fences, billboards, houses and other solid objects that they cannot see, due to their disorientation and panic. When they flee from their nests they do not know how to return once the noise ends, which leaves many of their young helpless.
For those of us who have dogs and cats, we already know the fear and anxiety they experience with fireworks. Did you know that dogs can be so distressed by everyday noises, like a vacuum cleaner, because it sounds louder to dogs than to humans? Moreover, dogs can hear high-pitched noises from devices that we can’t detect. Can you imagine what it is like for them with fireworks? What human ears can hear from 20 feet away, our dogs can hear from 80 feet away.
They don’t know what fireworks are; they just know they are loud and frightening and want to run and hide. Some dogs have run right into patio doors trying to escape from the pandemonium. If swallowed, the fireworks debris cannot be broken down by an animal’s digestive system.
Although they say that cats don’t have it as bad as dogs, some actually experience fear from the noise. This fear can lead the cat to running away from home and getting lost. When this happens, it may be hit by a car or injured from predators.
Fireworks have the same effect on all wild and marine life. They have no idea what is happening. The debris from fireworks can also affect aquatic life and the pollution levels of our water. Some of you may say, “Oh it’s only once or twice a year, what can it hurt.” However, according to Science Direct, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atmosenv.2007.10.047, within an hour of a fireworks show, the air pollution levels multiplied several times over normal, adding heavy metals as fine particular matter to the atmosphere, along with aerosols and dangerous gases.
The debris left behind from the fireworks can entangle wildlife and poison them if ingested. Chemicals in the fireworks add toxins to the air and water that humans and animals both inhale and drink. Most fireworks contain aluminum, carbon, lithium, chlorine, iron, copper, lithium and sometimes mercury to create the bright colors we love, which are carcinogenic, slowly poisoning aquatic and human life if found in our waters.
There have been many fires in the past few years where fireworks were investigated. In 2018, the National Fire Protection Association reported 19,500 fires due to fireworks. This led to 46 civilian injuries, five deaths from burns, smoke inhalation or injuries from structural collapse, and $105 million in property damage.
Fireworks have also caused forest fires. The 2017 Eagle Creek Fire in Oregon burned over 48,000 acres and was unable to be contained for almost three months. A firecracker started the blaze.
Did anyone happen to see the Seattle New Year’s Eve show at the Space Needle this year? They did a combination of synchronized drones and fireworks.
Can SJI try for a noise and pollutant-free pyrotechnics this year? The same visual effect without the devastating consequences. Drones offer far more creative possibilities. More expensive, but so much better for us, our animals, our marine and wildlife and the earth we are trying to save. Is a 20-minute pyrotechnic display worth the damage and the harm it does? Please, I know we are better than this. Let’s not scare, hurt, or lose any more birds, animals or wildlife and save millions of tons of toxins going into our water and air for a brief fireworks display. We can enjoy pollutant-free pyrotechnics just as much. Let’s be a leader in this endeavor!