Fireworks are a Nuisance: The Law Acknowledges it and Needs Updating

Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

If an establishment near you such as a hotel regularly lets off fireworks – say once or twice a month, you can complain to your local council that this constitutes a ‘Nuisance’ under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. And if deemed a nuisance, the hotel will need to start reducing their noise, often by using lower bang fireworks, that will help reduce the stress levels and improve the general health of local residents. And yet. Here we have it… If you have fireworks going off in your neighbourhood 3 or 4 nights a month or even week from different sources, the law does not protect you. It is the same impact – in fact it is worse – and the law acknowledges there is an impact. But it has not been updated in the last 30 years to accommodate the growth in cheap fireworks from China, the ease of accessibility to purchase them all year through online outlets and thereby the increase in fireworks being set off. The legislation in 2021 needs change. The Act recognises the stress and detrimental health impact of unwanted noise. But it needs updating. And some very important stats at the end of this blog reinforce this need for change.

On a website on environmental law – environmentlaw.org.uk, it states, “Generally, noise can be defined as any unwanted sound. Noise could occur unexpectedly, or be too loud or repetitive. At certain decibels, it can be hazardous to health, with low frequency noise as damaging as loud noise. Noise accounts for most of the complaints that local councils and the Environment Agency receive about environmental pollution, and is a major source of stress.” OK, so it acknowledges:

  • Noise is considered unwanted sound
  • At certain decibels and even low frequency, it can be hazardous to health
  • It is a major source of stress

It goes on to explain: “English private law defines a nuisance as “an unlawful interference with a person’s use or enjoyment of land or of some right over, or in connection, with it.” The process of determining what level of noise constitutes a nuisance can be quite subjective. For instance, the level of noise, its length and timing may be taken into consideration in ascertaining whether a nuisance has actually occurred…. Local authorities have a duty to deal with statutory nuisances under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. For noise to amount to a statutory nuisance, it must be “prejudicial to health or a nuisance” – see section 79(1)(g) and (ga) of the 1990 Act.”

Are fireworks interfering with your use of your land (home) or something in connection with it and ‘prejudicial to health or a nuisance’?

In all the blogs I have written, in the research, in speaking with people affected by fireworks, I would conclude that they are prejudicial to health or a nuisance. A lady whose husband trembles when fireworks go off, a man who was in an electrical explosion who is taken right back to his trauma because of fireworks. Many pet owners who can’t go out for fear of leaving anxious animals to the thunder of fireworks, fear when they can let them in their own garden or can’t go for walks in the dark in case some go off. People generally who are woken by fireworks – since they can go off until 11pm any day, or people who regularly say it is like living in a war zone. One friend’s dog is now too scared to go out to do ‘her business’ when it’s dark because fireworks scared her of the dark and so they regularly have accidents in the house. In all of these instances, isn’t that interfering with their enjoyment of life in their home and ‘land’? But we shouldn’t have to argue that, as the law knows it’s a problem – it acknowledges that such noise is a nuisance and that you should be allowed to enjoy your land and home – as per the example of a hotel regularly doing them who would be asked to stop if deemed a nuisance. So why are we all having to put up with it when individuals let them off regularly, amounting to the same or more amount of disturbance or ‘nuisance’ to us?

Nearly 300,000 people have signed the latest anti fireworks petition asking to restrict the use of fireworks. The FAB fireworks campaign has asked the general public to log fireworks they hear over the last 4 years. What is totally clear is that these are going off all year. It is a constant source of stress. The stats show that there is no ‘fireworks season’ for which people and animals can be prepared. They are logged throughout the year – 65% out of ‘season’. 99.5% of fireworks logged had no warning, so there is no way to prepare – for sufferers of PTSD, for animals, for people wanting to sleep. 32.5% are going off at times when most children and many adults are in bed – after 9pm. Only 0.1% of fireworks logged are known displays. Share these figures when you write to your MP.

All of this causes stress in multiple ways. And yet – the loophole in the legislation means that because it comes from different people, not one, you can’t complain and the law will not support you. That’s a mistake right? Or maybe it wasn’t back 30 years ago when fireworks were not let off even at new year very much. Nor was the internet around to sell fireworks all year.

This last week or so, I personally heard fireworks on Christmas eve (24th), Christmas day (25th), boxing day (26th), 30th Dec, 31st Dec, 1st and 2nd January. That’s a nuisance right? 7 out of 10 nights around Christmas and New Year when we want peace and quiet and to relax after what has for us all been a very stressful year. If that were one neighbour, or a hotel, I could ask the council to serve an abatement notice as it is stressful and damaging to mine and hundreds of others’ health.

People want change. The petition signatures and letters to MPs demonstrate that. They could tolerate it a few days of the year but every day? In the Netherlands they are allowed one day of the year. In the UK it’s 361 days, until 11pm , then 3 days until 1am and on 5th November until midnight. That constitutes a nuisance and the government needs to wake up and respect the wishes of the people, now that we are told we have more ‘independence’ and power as part of Brexit.

So we looked at the impact to life. How about the ‘level’ and regularity of noise?

Fireworks don’t just impact 3 or 4 houses, like noise from music can do – which can constitute a nuisance. They travel to 100s of houses, are incredibly loud, disturbing and intrusive. One person or family inconsiderately lets them off and everyone nearby – and not nearby – is subjected to listen to them, without any choice or warning. I heard today how someone’s neighbour who is a football fan, lets them off when his team wins… No warning, he just decides to create a huge noise that will massively disrupt neighbours a long way around. How can the government and MPs who just want this to go away and not do anything about it, justify that as not a nuisance? Are they getting so much in taxes on fireworks, that they don’t want to do anything? My MP argues people use them sensibly. Errr? Did you read the above? Do you listen to your constituents?

Summary. Fireworks in the UK are loud and travel a long way. They go off throughout the year. People have no warning and they detrimentally affect their enjoyment of their home and ‘land’.

It is time. Enough is enough. Change is needed.

Want to do more?

  • Write to your MP. They must hear from their constituents. If you get no reply, chase it. www.writetothem.com We live in a democracy and people have fought for such things. Use it. Feel free to use any of the information in this or other blogs on this page about the impacts of fireworks.
  • Sign the petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/319891
  • Log every single firework you hear. Any time of the year.
  • Write to your environmental health at your council. You could keep a copy of your logs of fireworks in a word doc or spreadsheet and share them with them. If you know others in your area, create a group and you all do the same, to prove the nuisance aspect. Some considerate councils are looking to restrict fireworks in some way.
Photo by David Garrison from Pexels

Why Fireworks are Outdated in 2020 and it’s Time for Change

Over the years, the rights of those who are badly impacted by others’ actions have gradually improved. The rights of the majority are not more important than those of the minority. Mental health rights, disabilities rights, animal rights, equality rights. We still have a long way to go, but in today’s society versus 100 years ago, it is far more accepted that we quite rightly consider the needs of those who are partially sighted, who have dementia, who suffer from PTSD, animals’ rights who can’t speak for themselves. Even the rights of the environment, nature and its impact on our future. There are rules against anti-social behaviour that impacts others, against noise that is not good and often distressing for others. We are also aware of the costs of our emergency services.

And yet. Here we have it. We – in the UK – and not in many European countries I hasten to add – continue to allow people who want a ‘bit of fun’, to let off noisy, dangerous fireworks – whenever they like pretty much – apart from past someone’s considered late bedtime. Every single day of the year. So much so that many people who suffer from PTSD can be immensely distressed, taken back to their original trauma, trembling, sweating – just because someone has the right to let off a firework ANY DAY OF THE YEAR. No warning for the person who suffers from PTSD. Bang. Off it goes. From nowhere. How cruel, how unkind. You can read examples from people who contacted us regarding how it impacted them and their loved ones. In the past, shockingly, shellshock and any mental health issues were a stigma and people coming back from war did not get the support they deserved from society. That was the past. We know better now and should be showing more respect to those adversely affected by fireworks. There are alternative ways to ‘have fun’, so that these people can stay in peace.

The government argues there is enough legislation. Really?! They are not considering the rights or the voices of these people, animals and the environment. The government doesn’t want to deny the rights of people to let off a firework. Yet what about protecting the rights of not only PTSD sufferers, but many people with dementia, autism, hyperacusis (hearing sensitivity), people who want to enjoy a peaceful evening and a good night’s sleep, as well as animals, their owners and the environment?

Many partially sighted or blind people rely on their dogs to guide them and yet, how much do we consider their rights, by allowing these to go off at any time? Many of their dogs are badly impacted as this blog highlights – substantially affecting the ability of their owner to get around and live life normally.

We are now acutely aware of the climate crisis and 85% of us concerned about it. Yet we let these fireworks, with toxic fumes and gasses out into the air. The toxins and chemicals are damaging to the environment, the packaging lands somewhere, the chemicals go into rivers. You can smell the air after a firework has gone off. It’s not good. Your gut knows that is toxic. Imagine birds and other smaller animals, with far smaller lungs. There are also reports that show that people are affected by this polluted air.

Wildlife suffers. Swans in Prague were reported to have died from fireworks, so thankfully, fireworks were banned there. Our pets suffer. So many pet owners dread fireworks, as they have to stay in to protect their loved ones from the terrifying effect of fireworks. So much so that Classic FM does a programme on bonfire night, to play calming music for dogs. The trouble is we need it many more nights of the year. About half of pets are known to suffer because of them. And it affects the stress of their owners and their lives too. Animals’ hearing is more sensitive than humans and often the noise can be very painful for them, as many animal charities confirm and support the need for a change in the law.

If you look at the cost of fireworks to the emergency services, this article by the London Fire Brigade explains there were 900 callouts in London alone in 2019 fireworks season. “Last year, we attended more than 900 incidents over the Halloween and Bonfire night period – 25th October to 8th November 2018. There were 43 fires started by stray fireworks, including one which caused a fire that damaged the roof of a Hornsey pub. Bonfire night is traditionally one of the busiest nights for incidents no matter the day that it falls on. Last year London’s firefighters attended 117 separate incidents on November 5th.” The costs of this financially just for the fire callouts, not the damage? This article explains, “It is common for two fire engines to be sent to an emergency call, each carrying about five firefighters at a cost of about £100 per person and £500 per vehicle.” So that’s 5 firefighters at £100 each, making £500. So £1,000 per vehicle, including 5 firefighters and 2 vehicles needed. So £2,000 per callout that could have been going somewhere else. Multiply that by the 900 callouts in London is £1.8 million. In London alone! The cost around the country must be horrendous! And the impact to the NHS: “According to figures from NHS Digital, there were almost 2,000 occasions of people going to A&E linked to fireworks in 2018/19.” We need the NHS for other things at the moment and any time. We need the money to be spent elsewhere… we all know that.

I think you get the point. It’s inconsiderate. It’s outdated because it’s not fair to let off fireworks whenever you like, just because of some outdated notion that some people can make a noise at the expense and to the detriment of others – be they people, animals or the environment. There is a debate in parliament on 2nd November 2020. Write to your MP and tell them your views and ask them to be present at the debate.

Councils and MPs Pushing for Carbon Neutral, we Salute Thee. Please Restrict Fireworks as Part of Environmental Changes

According to the BBC, “The UK is the first major nation to formally back a pledge to cut carbon emissions to practically zero in just over 30 years. As well as clearing the air of harmful fumes, the scheme – according to one expert on climate change – will also have surprising knock-on effects for the population as a whole.” That’s great but as we hear, it needs to be much faster than 30 years. And per a news report today, Finland has halved that. “Finland has pledged to be carbon-neutral by 2035 – that’s twice as fast as the UK government target. But to achieve this, it will have to make big changes..” As will we all. We need dramatic and rapid attitudinal and behavioural changes from individuals, government, local councils and business to save the planet.

On the news last weekend, it was even more encouraging to hear that many UK cities, such as Glasgow, Birmingham, Oxford and other councils are themselves pledging to be carbon neutral far sooner than the UK government target. Good on them! It does need to be now! As we have seen this week at the World Economic Forum and you can see the speech yourself at this link, where Prince Charles said, we need a “paradigm shift”. “We simply cannot waste any more time. The only limit is our willingness to act. And the time to act is now.” People of the world, we need to radically change the way we live and behave – we need to stop our lives of convenience and start one of consideration for the environment and wildlife. There is also the global summit in Glasgow, so the UK will be in the spotlight. Many by 2030 – so in 10 years and some by 2028. Great. Let’s support them! 

One easy change is to stop throwing gasses, metals and chemicals into the air. To help our environment and protect our wildlife from dying of fear, we can massively reduce the use of fireworks. Many countries allow them only one day a year and yet the UK – embarrassingly allows them every day of the year! Shame on us. As per a blog we wrote on the environmental impact of fireworks, as well as one on how detrimental they are to protecting our wildlife, “One way we can [help the environment] is by stopping the use of fireworks, whose metals, gunpowder, chemicals and packaging pollute and damage our environment.” 

Just a few days ago, the Guardian wrote about the pollution from the London fireworks. “For four hours, the air was filled with tiny particles of the metals that are used to make firework colours. These included barium, copper and strontium that produce white, green, blue and red colours, along with potassium and chloride that are used as firework propellants. Air pollution from northern France also reached the city later in the day.” What is that doing to our lungs – the trees – and our own lungs, those of animals, birds, what is going into the river and then the ocean…?

So many other countries have far tighter regulations on fireworks usage than the UK and allow them only rarely. In many European countries, they can only be used on one or two days of the year. In Germany for example, “Shops are only allowed to sell fireworks, rockets, wheels or bangers in the time period from Dec. 28 to 31…” In the Netherlands too, they are banned all year apart from in special cases. The only day they are allowed is on New Year’s eve – and then only from 6pm until 2am.

So why oh why, does the UK, who is apparently one of the nations trying to limit its environmental impact, allow them ON EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE YEAR?! And without restriction?

Councils, government, please – you won’t be ruining people’s lives by reducing the amount they go off. And anyway, we are going to have to get used to far bigger changes to save the planet. People live quite happily in other countries without them! Fireworks are often shipped all the way over from China, the country with the highest carbon emissions. As per our blog and the Guardian article above, fireworks send toxins and metals into the environment. They scare birds, thousands of whom die by flying into stationary objects. We need to protect them. 

In this time of climate emergency, why not be like the Netherlands and ban them altogether, apart from rare circumstances? Or at least severely restrict them to a few days a year? Businesses will find other ways for people to have fun and fundraise! And one thing is for sure, we are going to have to make far bigger lifestyle changes than just stopping fireworks. And that’s the way competition and market forces work. It’s an easy step that doesn’t restrict our lives and that will improve the environment and the communities in which we live. 

We believe these may be some of the cities/councils going carbon neutral. Please write to your council and share this blog with them, particularly if they are one of those aiming to be carbon neutral – and if they aren’t why aren’t they. We are sure there are many more and would be happy to edit these as people find out more or less on this list. 

  • Nottingham
  • Bristol
  • Glasgow
  • City of York
  • Birmingham
  • Winchester – wants to look at how to reduce its carbon footprint
  • Exeter city
  • Manchester
  • Liverpool
  • Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire District Council
  • Edinburgh
  • Lambeth Council
  • Kensington & Chelsea

Other things you can do to help make a difference:

  • Share this blog in every group you are in on social media and in emails – particularly those not related to fireworks, to reach new audiences
  • There have been 3 debates and a Petitions Commitee inquiry which the UK government are expected to reply in 2020. Now is the time to write to your MP and ask them to push the government to take drastic action. Reduce the number of days to just a handful a year and ban the sale to the public.
  • Write to your councils asking them to change what they allow. You can use the RSPCA template to ask them to change which are allowed and share the blogs we have written
  • Ask your friends and neighbours not to let them off or if they insist, to at least use those with lower bang ratings – which are available among most fireworks sellers and those that do displays
  • Support petitions 
  • Record every firework you hear through the year. FAB are collating this information for your MP letters.
  • Read more blogs on the impacts of fireworks and share these too: Environmental impact, impact on wildlife, impact on war veterans and sufferers of PTSD and on assistance dogs

Let’s look forward to a world with cleaner air, less noise and more consideration for wildlife and our environment.

Images by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Birds Die, Horses Panic, Wildlife Suffers. Humans Setting off Fireworks Terrify and Kill.

Often when I mention to people about the many groups that are negatively impacted by fireworks, I’ll say, “Imagine all the wild animals when fireworks go off. They have no shelter – horses, sheep, hedgehogs, birds…It must be terrifying for them when there is no natural sound like this – and they have no warning..” And so many people say, “I hadn’t thought of that.” 

Well here’s to get us all thinking about that. Often as humans, we focus on actions that impact humans. With fireworks, the government will say they are set at a safe decibel range (which incidentally does not seem to be agreed is safe by hearing charities) – but of course this is for humans. Not animals, with whom we share the planet – and are all part of our ecosystem.

Here’s the summary for those that won’t read on, but others please do: Thousands of birds have died from heart attacks or through panic and flying into things, when fireworks go off. Horses have bolted, some impaled. Hedgehogs been tied to fireworks and shot into the air. We are in a climate emergency where we have already lost 60% of the UK’s wildlife population. It’s not only humans on this planet. Take action – write to your MP and town councillors, tell people not to do them, sign every petition.

So, for everyone that continued, here is what you need to know..

Animals have a far higher hearing range. Their hearing is far more sensitive than ours. Dogs for example, can hear sounds 4 times farther away than we can and higher pitch sounds too. Birds can hear a wider range of sounds than humans and have better resolution than human hearing, so they hear much more detail and what is not loud to us can be loud and clear to them. Our beloved hedgehogs, who already are struggling at a tiny percentage of population compared to what they were, according to Louisiana State University, “Have a hearing frequency range between 250 and 45,000 Hz…it’s much higher than the human range of 23,000 Hz.” So all those sounds that are ‘OK’ to us (but are not really ok, if you read our other blogs regarding humans impacted), are that much worse, terrifying and unknown for animals. Fireworks aren’t natural. The only vaguely similar natural sound in the wild is thunder and that doesn’t go as high, as loud, nor like gunshots and everything else under the moon. How confusing would that be to you, if you were out in nature happily tucked up for the night, when something like that goes off??

We are in a climate emergency. According to the State of Nature Report, and a Guardian article in Oct 2019, about it, “Populations of the UK’s most important wildlife have plummeted by an average of 60% since 1970, according to the most comprehensive analysis to date…A quarter of UK mammals and nearly half of the birds assessed are at risk of extinction.” And apparently there are no signs of this getting better. Doesn’t this highlight that we humans need to protect the delicate habitat in which we live? Everything comes together – the different species need each other in the ecosystem. Stopping fireworks is one easy way!

So how are animals affected by fireworks – and particularly wildlife?

Let’s take a look at birds. Fireworks scare birds. Let’s not mess about with it. And particularly in winter, birds roost together on the cold nights. When fireworks go off they panic. Some research was done in the Netherlands on this and an article in Forbes refers to the impact on birds, of fireworks. “When a fireworks display occurs near a wild bird roost, the birds simultaneously explode into the night skies in utter panic, which can lead to huge numbers of deaths, usually because these birds either smash their skulls or break their necks as the result of flying into trees, fences, billboards, houses and other solid objects that they cannot see in the gloom and ensuing chaos. Probably the most infamous example of massive bird deaths after a fireworks display were the 5,000+ dead or dying red-winged blackbirds that rained down from the skies onto the small Arkansas town of Beebe in 2010, leading some residents to fear an impending apocalypse.” How dreadful. Half of birds are disappearing and we do this to them – and for no real benefit to us other than a few minutes’ ‘entertainment’? Aren’t their lives valuable, each and every one? We can find other ways to be entertained when lives are at risk. In Prague, they banned fireworks in the city centre, as swans were dying from heart attacks because of them. A friend from Prague said how awful it was to see birds lying dead on the ground in the morning after fireworks. 

A town in England – Bideford, after many complaints and petitions, did decide to change its plans for fireworks in order to protect roosts of starlings in 2019/2020. Good on you Bideford council. 

Horses are often very scared by fireworks and there are many examples of horses that have bolted and then been injured or worse, died because of fireworks. There was one example reported, just this last year at fireworks. The horse, Harry tried to bolt when it heard fireworks and impaled itself on the fence. A document on fireworks by the British Horse Society says, “Horses are flight animals and anything unexpected will startle them. The response will vary greatly according to the individual horse, but reactions can be extremely dramatic and potentially dangerous for the horse or anyone close by. [Fireworks] produce loud bangs, crackles, sudden strange lights and a burning smell.”

Apart from the sounds, in 2019, we saw some horrifying examples and images of hedgehogs being tied to fireworks and then set off. Disgusting. Fireworks containing gunpowder are a weapon. And in the wrong hands and the general public, can be used and abused very badly. In many countries around the world, they are only allowed on new year’s eve and only with tight regulations. Yet in the UK, they are allowed every night of the year, hounding our animals with terrifying sounds, smells and in some cases the parts of the fireworks coming down on them. It’s time to change the laws, limit the number of days they are allowed on, reduce the decibels of those that are let off and ban the sale to the public. It’s gone ridiculous now. Weddings, celebrations, showing off your money, letting off lights at Christmas, leaving the EU – any reason to let off a firework. It’s ridiculous. It’s selfish – for humans such as sufferers of PTSD, war veterans, those with hyperacusis, dementia and more – and for animals – pets and wildlife – and for the environment as we throw toxins into the air. 

OK humans. Want to be responsible for this planet? What can you do? 

  • Share this blog in every group you are in on social media and in emails – particularly those not related to fireworks, to reach new audiences
  • There have been 3 debates and a petitions inquiry and now the UK government is due to review what to do in 2020. Now is the time to write to your MP and ask them to push the government to take drastic action. Reduce the number of days to just a handful a year and ban the sale to the public.
  • Write to your councils asking them to change what they allow. As you can see in Bideford, they can do this. Push. You can use the RSPCA template to ask them to change which are allowed
  • Ask your friends and neighbours not to let them off or if they insist, to at least use those with lower bang ratings – which are available among most fireworks sellers and those that do displays
  • Support petitions 
  • Record every firework you hear through the year
  • Read more blogs on the impacts of fireworks and share these too: Environmental impact, impact on war veterans and sufferers of PTSD and on assistance dogs

Assistance Dogs and Humans – a Great Partnership – until Humans let off Fireworks that Cause Distress to Dogs

According to Assistance Dogs UK, “Over 7,000 disabled people in the UK rely on an assistance dog to help with practical tasks – offering emotional support and independence.” These include guide dogs for the blind, hearing dogs for deaf people, assistance in disability and medical detection dogs. Additionally to the fully trained ones, many dogs support children with autism, people with dementia and people with mental health problems. 

In so many ways, dogs improve people’s wellbeing, health and make them less socially isolated. And yet despite all that they do for humans, we repay them by regularly letting off fireworks that cause distress to at least half of them. The latest obsession with fireworks is now throughout December, when people may go with all the family, including the dog member of the family, to a switch on the Christmas lights event. One lady went with her dog and fireworks were unknowingly let off, leaving the dog in fear of going out for weeks after. 

Most pet owners know of the terrible distress caused to animals because of fireworks. They don’t know what is happening, their hearing is more sensitive than ours and their fear can last for hours and days. All for a few minutes of very environmentally unfriendly chemicals and toxins thrown into the air for the sake of ‘fun’. 

An example of how this impacts someone who depends on her assistance dog, in order to live life as normally as possible, is Ellen Watson. Ellen works as a clerk in the House of Commons and shared a video of her lovely labrador, Skipp, shaking with fear after the colourful rockets went off when they were out walking. The fireworks went off in the late afternoon the day before bonfire night and left Skipp rooted to the ground, shaking with fear and Ellen’s safety was at risk. 

“This is my Guide Dog, on our way home from work at 5pm, rooted to the spot & shaking with fear after fireworks went off nearby. Not only do fireworks cause extreme distress for dogs & humans, they pose risk to disabled ppls safety. This has to stop. Fireworks NEED to be regulated pic.twitter.com/yAJs8rJZJV

For Ellen, who is deaf blind after being diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, in order to fit around people’s random letting off of fireworks, Ellen had to change her work schedule and get home early on the days around fireworks. The challenge nowadays, is that these go on for months and now as per the example with Christmas lights, they are even in December and New Year – sometimes even Christmas Day. Shouldn’t society encompass everyone within it and be considerate of the needs of all? How wrong that Ellen has had to modify her life – which is already massively modified compared to how it was – in order to accommodate a few people letting off fireworks. We really need to start being more considerate. The general public needs to become more aware and therefore considerate of the impact of their actions.

At least half of pets, PLUS animals out in fields with no shelter are impacted by fireworks. Per our previous blogs, people with PTSD can suffer from them, as does the environment, through toxins and chemicals thrown into the air. It’s time to ban the sale of fireworks to the public in consideration of pets, assistance dogs, their humans, sufferers of PTSD and the environment. There are kinder, more considerate ways to celebrate and have fun. We don’t need to let them off at every opportunity – and particularly spontaneously when no one is prepared for them. 

So when you are organising Christmas lights, New Year, or a wedding, please consider the substantial number of people impacted by your desire to celebrate – and whether it’s worth it, for the few minutes of pleasure you have. If you know people organising any of the above, please ask them not to let off fireworks in consideration for most people who are against them. This obsession with fireworks at everything damages our world, the animals and many humans that live in it. Please be considerate.

85% of the British Public is Worried about Climate Change – yet we Assault the Environment with Chemicals and Metals from Fireworks…eh…?

Seems a bit of a contradiction…that we are concerned about the environment, yet we shoot metals, gases and chemicals into the environment. Friends of the Earth recently stated, “A new poll reveals that 85% of us, the British public, are worried about climate change. The urgency and concern rises year-on-year as time slips away to save our planet.”  Sir David Attenborough says we face, “Irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies ….It may sound frightening, but the scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies.” On 1 May 2019, the UK Parliament declared a climate emergency, making the UK the first country to do so.

Michael Gell has been in touch with FAB about the impact of fireworks on the environment. Michael has a long and impressive wealth of experience in science and the environment, which you can read more about.Over the years, he has provided expert advice on national environmental pilot programmes and design and operation of greenhouse gas disclosure platforms. In 2009 he was a member of the World Economic Forum Task Force on Low Carbon Economic Prosperity. In his blogs, which warn of the environmental emergency we are in, he says that we are at a key decision time for humankind. We can either carry on how we are and destroy the planet and cause lots of suffering for humans and animals. Or we can radically change the way we live – across all areas of life – and have a chance of saving the one planet we all share. Now is our last chance. 

If you find the reality of the environmental situation we are in disturbing and depressing, the good news is that IF we change, according to Michael, we do have a chance. “The choice being faced is …to choose uninhabitability of the earth, or to mobilise and make a sharp turn by slamming the brakes on greenhouse gas emissions, putting a stop on the ransacking and poisoning of the earth and designing and building the necessary systems (technological, economic, behavioural, social, etc) in a last chance pitch for survival.” 

And for those of you that won’t read further – one way we can do that is by stopping the use of fireworks, whose metals, gunpowder, chemicals and packaging pollute and damage our environment. It’s an easy decision. For everyone else, please read on. It’s important. 

Michael explains that there are different bodies or people that impact change – central government, local government, industries and citizens for example. The good news for us all is that citizens can drive the changes that governments and industries need to make – and already for example, people eating less meat is forcing businesses to produce more plant-based food.  Just look at the supermarkets, how their shelves are filling with the new products. They are being led by citizens.

So we have 10 years to make many of the changes that are necessary. And right here, right now, we could easily remove a pollutant – fireworks – and find more environmentally friendly ways to have fun and celebrate – one for you to think about the next time you are thinking of letting that firework off – at your wedding, party or new year celebration – just consider the impact you are having on the future of our planet. An article in BBC Science Focus says, “Though beautiful, fireworks pollute the atmosphere so may not be the most green choice of entertainment.” 

The article states, “Fireworks propel a cocktail of chemicals into the atmosphere, many of which can harm both people and the environment. The vivid colours in firework displays come from metallic compounds such as barium or aluminium that can have negative impacts on animal and human health.” It goes on to explain that in order to create an explosion, you need a lot of oxygen, so many fireworks contain oxidisers known as perchlorates. These can contaminate rivers, lakes and drinking water. If our rivers and lakes are contaminated, that affects anything living in, dependent on or drinking from the river. Fish, ducks, swans, deer and more. And the water goes downstream and into our oceans, carrying the problem even further.

Michael Gell points out that a DEFRA report acknowledged the impact of fireworks. “Best estimates of emissions of air pollutants from use of fireworks are as follows: Copper 2.8 tonnes (6% of emissions in 2000), Potassium 100 tonnes (9.3% of emissions in 2000), Sodium 5.5 tonnes (0.5% of emissions in 2000), Magnesium 73 tonnes (7.6% of emissions in 2000), Barium 65 tonnes, Strontium 9.9 tonnes, Aluminium 86 tonnes, Titanium 5.3 tonnes, Carbon dioxide 160 tonnes (trivial), Carbon monoxide 120 tonnes (trivial)”. This was over 10 years ago and fireworks have increased exponentially since then. It is worth noting that climate emissions are also associated with the extended lifecycle of fireworks – from manufacturing (often in China), shipping, sales and of course emissions from emergency, health, veterinary and other (e.g. building repair) services required to address the aftermath of their use.

The Scottish government’s Safer Communities Directorate has in October this year, published information on the impact of fireworks – on health, the environment and noise effects: “Short term health effects may include asthma attacks, coughs, fever and severe asthma, and even pneumonia (Hirai et al., 2000). Longer term health effects may also include respiratory and cardiovascular system diseases, and an increased risk of cancer. …High build-up of metal elements through both fine and coarse particulate matter in the body can adversely affect human health.” If it does this to humans – where more time and effort on research is spent, think what it is doing to all the wildlife breathing in the air we pollute for them? And what all of that is doing to plants, water, trees that protect us…

The Directorate says, “There is some evidence from outwith Scotland to suggest that restricting firework use could benefit the environment by reducing pollution from fireworks emissions as well as secondary fires.” Repeat – we are in a climate emergency – and restricting fireworks would benefit the environment by reducing pollution. Got it? They are not good. We can live without them. No brainer.

An ITV article on 5th November 2019 also refers to the toxicity of fireworks. “Bonfires and fireworks send November 5 air pollution levels soaring, study suggests.” It refers to a study where thousands of sensors take readings of particulate matter. “A study in Newcastle and Gateshead found that in 2018, pollution levels were four times higher in the evening of Bonfire Night than they were earlier in the day.” We already have issues with our air quality, and yet the article states, the pollution levels rise to “Eight times the World Health Organisation’s recommended safe limit of 10 micrograms/m3.” 

Do I need to go on? We are in a crucial point in the history of our earth, when every one of us can make a difference by our decisions, behaviours and actions. And for our consciences, we have to. Fireworks pollute the air, the particles release metallic substances and chemicals into the environment, covering our trees, going into our rivers and lakes and into oceans – contaminating the world we live in – that we have 10 years to protect. Isn’t it time to simply remove this pollutant and stop letting off fireworks?  In 2019 Sainsbury’s became the first major supermarket to stop selling fireworks at its 2,300 stores across the UK.  Given that the UK government has declared a climate and ecological emergency, wouldn’t a sensible action be to ban fireworks…

It’s time for we human beings to be drastically more considerate of the environment, stop abusing it and the natural world. To stop behaving like nothing else is impacted by our actions. It’s time to be considerate and ban fireworks! 

The Fireworks Campaign (FAB) is releasing a series of blogs and images on the impact of fireworks. You can find out more and read about the effects of fireworks on war veterans and other PTSD sufferers and please share these with anyone you know, to help spread the awareness of their dreadful impact.

Why those who keep you safe deserve your consideration: How fireworks affect many PTSD sufferers

“Oh, it’s for fun,” is what we often hear by those supportive of fireworks. Weddings, parties, concerts throughout the year, as well as October to January for Diwali, Guy Fawkes and New Year. But for thousands of people across the UK, it is completely the opposite and far from fun. A few minutes of ‘fun’ for a relatively small number of people can cause months of distress for thousands of others, as you will read below. We will cover many of the people affected in a series of blogs –  some sufferers of PTSD, dementia, some on the autism spectrum, with anxiety, some living with fibromyalgia, hyperacusis and more. But today we will look at many people who suffer from PTSD and some war veterans, who suffer dreadfully from the sounds and smells of fireworks.

What is PTSD and who can be affected?

1 in 10 people in the UK develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to PTSD UK. So in a small to medium town of 20,000 people, that is 2,000 people. In your road with say 100 people living in it, you could have 10 people living with PTSD and who may be impacted by your actions. We have examples of people, who got in touch with us who are terribly affected by fireworks. Each bang can take them back to the trauma they initially experienced and make them anxious and extremely agitated, sometimes reduced to tears. So read on to understand more and why you are not being the ‘fun police’ when standing up to fireworks. You are being considerate and standing up for 1 in 10 people affected by a traumatic event – let alone many others, as we mentioned above.

According to PTSD UK, “PTSD is essentially a memory-filing error caused by a traumatic event and can affect anyone who has been exposed to a traumatic event. The defining characteristic of a traumatic event is its capacity to provoke fear, helplessness, or horror in response to the threat of injury or death and therefore can affect anyone. Examples of traumatic events include serious accidents such as road traffic accidents, being told you have a life-threatening illness, bereavement, violent personal assault, such as a physical attack, sexual assault, robbery, or mugging, military combat, a terrorist attack..” and more. 

The charity states examples of how many people are affected: 1 in 5 firefighters, 70% of rape victims, 2 in 3 Prisoners of War, 40% of people who experienced a sudden death of a loved one, and an estimated 10,000 women a year following a traumatic childbirth.

So why is it relevant for us to be considerate of people who suffer from PTSD in our choices around fireworks?

Sufferers of PTSD can often find it difficult to tolerate certain sounds and some sounds provoke fear. Additionally, triggers can give flashbacks to a traumatic event which was experienced. PTSD UK in its blog on flashbacks says, “When you experience something really traumatic, your body suspends ‘normal operations’ and temporarily shuts down some bodily functions such as memory processing. During trauma, your brain thinks ‘processing and understanding what is going on right now is not important! Getting your legs ready to run, your heart rate up, and your arms ready to fight this danger is what’s important right now, I’ll get back to the processing later.’” So the brain suspends the event but recalls the sensory information around that – like we can often remember where we were or what we were doing when something important in our lives happened. You might remember what you were eating, drinking, what you could smell, hear and so forth and often for PTSD sufferers, the blog explains, when you hear or smell similar things again, it takes you back and your body and mind goes into the fight or flight response it had to deal with then. Taking you back and re-living the trauma. Time and time again. 

This month of November, we take time to acknowledge and be grateful for, the sacrifices that the current and previous armed forces take and have taken for us – to keep us safe. We wear poppies in respect and gratitude. Many have sacrificed their lives in doing so but many still live, but with the trauma of what they faced always with them. When a group of people wants to ‘have fun’ and not be limited from that, in letting fireworks off, they can be reminding and making some war veterans re-live the trauma they experienced. 

This year, walking with the wounded posted a blog. “Remember, remember our veterans on the fifth of November. While fireworks and bonfires are used to celebrate Guy Fawkes and Diwali, for some, the loud bangs and smells can trigger symptoms of post-traumatic stress…For some veterans, the smells, sights and sounds of Bonfire night are all too similar to those experienced in combat.”

Here is an example where the wife of a war veteran explains how fireworks affect her husband:

“My husband is a war veteran. He served in the Welsh Guards for 22 years and sustained life-changing injuries in the Falklands War. He actually died on the runway at Port Stanley airstrip. He received CPR from a colleague and thankfully he was resuscitated, but because of the lack of oxygen to his brain, he has brain injury and back problems and lost his leg below the knee. Part of his left foot was also blown away. This happened when a harrier jet accidentally fired the sidewinder missiles it was carrying. So as you can imagine, loud bangs affect him. He becomes very agitated and shaking, breaks out in a cold clammy sweat and is reduced to tears. It’s pitiful to see a grown strong man reduced to tears due to the noise of fireworks. We put the television on very loud, but I can see by his face it really gets to him. When these fireworks are going off all the time, it is terrible to watch him. I really think they should be banned on the street and only used in an organised event.”

Here is another example:

I would like to give you an insight as to how Firework Season impacts on the life of myself and my husband who suffers from Complex Combat PTSD & Enduring Personality Change After Catastrophic Reaction after serving ten years in the Armed Forces. Please note the term Firework Season as it just seems to get longer and longer with each passing year, then just when you think it’s safe, along comes New Years Eve and we start all over again. He lives ‘safely’ in his bubble he has created to not only protect him but to protect us around him. Suddenly his bubble is no longer safe, as all around him at any given time are fireworks. It’s not only the sound or the flash. It’s the smell and if close enough the feel of them going off. Firework Season for my husband means there is added anxiety, hyper vigilance and anxiety-induced incontinence, less sleep, more nightmares and flashbacks. He doesn’t eat when he’s anxious, due to the PTSD and anxiety he now also suffers with GORD. All we ask is that you consider the idea that it be organised displays only and only for a limited period around Guy Fawkes. At least the people like my husband and those with pets can at least be prepared.”

So to be clear, war veterans sacrificed what their life was, for us and to keep us safe – and we think people are being ‘fun police’ and ruining their fun of a few minutes by letting off fireworks that cause immense distress, make them feel unsafe and make them re-live that painful experience..? Just think about that one for a moment. Is the balance of a few moments of ‘fun’, versus immense distress and trauma re-lived – for people whose life is radically changed because of trying to protect you and those around you – really worth it? Really? If, while you are standing drinking mulled wine, enjoying the loud bangs and colours, you could have a live video stream to people who might be cowering in their house, might that change your behaviour? And might thinking about this make you take action – pass this blog on, tell more people about it, write to your MP once the election is over?

Jamie suffers from PTSD . He was involved in an electrical explosion 10 years ago and 45% of his body was covered in flames and burnt. One bang from a firework can take him back to that traumatic and life-threatening event. You can watch his video here of his views on fireworks and how they affect him and also his dogs:

“It took me years to recover from that physically. Mentally, I can be taken back there in a flash. All it takes is someone thoughtlessly letting off a firework without me knowing and I am back there. Think about those people who fought for our country, who have been fighting – war, gunshots, bombs. With fireworks, you can be taking people right back to that moment.”

Amanda’s daughter suffers from PTSD:

“Basically where I live, the fireworks have been going off since October at all hours and my kids can’t take it anymore. My daughter has PTSD, ADHD and sensory issues. I can’t even get her from school to my house at 3.20pm. The fireworks are booming away and I’m physically walking her home with my hands over her ear defenders whilst also trying to stop my son from running off because he’s also scared. My child should not have to sleep with ear defenders on or have night terrors because of these fireworks.  And round here it’s teenagers letting them off too. I have signed every petition I can find for the past 6 years and I’m totally fed up with it all. My daughter will have a breakdown if this carries on.”

People letting off loud fireworks sometimes say, “Oh well no one complained so we will carry on,” but often people can’t or don’t want to keep complaining, as they feel bad to ‘ruin’ other people’s fun. Or they see they are helpless and can’t change it. Isn’t it time for the rest of us to speak out for them and say, ‘Hey, we can sacrifice a little ‘fun’ to make your lives better. We have plenty of ways to enjoy ourselves, that is more considerate of others.’

We know there are so many of you and my heart goes out to you for the distress that the inconsideration of others causes you. Many recent surveys/polls have shown 80 to 90% support for changes in regulations in the UK. Behaviour needs to change and people be aware that fireworks are inconsiderate, as well as the law changing so they can’t go off much and their impact limited. But for behaviour and the law to change, each person reading this blog needs to share it, tell others about it, write to their local MP once they are back, write to people doing displays etc.

By doing so, you are being considerate and respectful. People can enjoy themselves in quieter, less distressing, less polluting ways. Let’s be a considerate society that considers all humans within it, as well as all animals with whom we share this planet and the natural environment.  

#notpartofthejob #banfireworks