Fireworks spark fury – are they more dangerous than they’re worth?

By Lauren Taylor |

This year, the arrival of Bonfire Night has sparked a lot of debate around the necessity of fireworks and their harmful capacity. An occasion which happens once a year, the 5th of November is celebrated across the UK to remember Guy Fawkes’ failed plot to blow up Parliament in 1605. Since large bonfires and firework displays have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than usual decided to partake in at-home bonfires. But even after Bonfire Night, I can still hear the odd firework or two, even several, which brings the question: how much is too much when it comes to fireworks?

I’m all for dragging out celebrations – my 18th birthday celebrations were about a week long and I’ve already started playing Christmas music – and especially after the year we’ve had, I think we’re excused if we want to take things a little bit further this year. However, when it comes to fireworks, it’s easy to get sick of them. The pretty patterns can be a bit repetitive after the 9th or 10th firework in a row, and the roaring “bang” or “fizzle” sound lacklustre once the amazement has faded away. 

Not only does it get irritating, but the sound effects of fireworks can also cause bad reactions for those with mental health conditions, such as anxiety or PTSD. The loud noises can trigger panic attacks or cause severe stress, as well as possibly bringing back unpleasant memories for war veterans. Those with autism can be left shaken, as well as vulnerable elderly and confused children, who can also be susceptible to anxiety caused by fireworks, leaving their carers unable to soothe them.  

“How much is too much when it comes to fireworks?” | Ray Hennessy/Unsplash

Pet owners also struggle, trying everything they can to calm their frightened dogs and cats. Wild animals are also vulnerable, being completely unaware of the looming threat of an airborne firework possibly heading in their direction. Other aspects of our beautiful natural environment are in danger of being ruined and for days after the celebrations, the remnants of previously lit fireworks can be spotted on our streets. The bigger consequences also loom over us without most even considering them – what we do not see is the substantial contribution to ozone depletion, with pollutants being let into the air. 

But fireworks play a huge part in religious, nationalistic and other celebratory events, such as Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, and New Year’s Eve. Between now and the end of the year, with the vast number of events occurring, it is not uncommon to hear the occasional firework, but the constant use takes away the magical atmosphere that fireworks can create. It makes the positive impact less significant. 

Fireworks just seem to be too much for such little gain

So maybe, we should ban the general sale of fireworks and allow the professionals to handle them on significant occasions? This would drastically reduce the number of people injured and ending up in A&E for firework related burns, which was over 2,000 people in 2018/19 according to the NHS website. But it is extremely likely that people would still manage to get their hands on them and use them, which would lead to police time being wasted dealing with these issues when there are bigger problems at hand. Plus, we all know that not everyone obeys the law – look at underage drinkers or those meeting up with their friends in lockdown!

“The momentary burst of colour ends with significant, lasting negative effects” | Michael Fousert/Unsplash

Fireworks just seem to be too much risk for such little gain. With the overwhelming risks involved for the person lighting the firework and those in the surrounding areas, the fleeting awe that we get from a singular rocket firework seems insignificant. While I do like watching the grand firework display on Bonfire Night, or on the telly from London on New Year’s Eve, the momentary burst of colour ends with significant, lasting negative effects. 

This article is in our Opinions section. As such the views within are those of the contributor and do not represent an editorial stance.

The views expressed in this publication are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Falmouth University, the University of Exeter or Falmouth & Exeter Students’ Union.