Fireworks: when magic harms nature

It’s the highlight of the show. Every year, the celebration of July 14, the French National Day, ends with the traditional fireworks display. But behind the sparks and detonations, a polluting practice that threatens nature.

The danger is too high. In a context of heat waves and drought, several dozen French cities had to decide to cancel their fireworks due to the risk of fire. In Nîmes, Alès or Aubagne, the shows scheduled for July 14 have been canceled.

The threat is not new. In 2019, for the same reasons, the prefecture of Hérault in southeastern France canceled the fireworks that were to be fired on 15 August.

For pyrotechnicians, on the other hand, if the danger exists, it is possible to mitigate it by correctly choosing the types of fires used and the location of the show, as the Reporter’s information page pointed out.

An explosive cocktail for health and the environment?

Lithium for the red fireworks, chlorine for the green and copper for the blue, it is a potentially harmful cocktail that is released with every play in the air, water and on the ground. With the consequent effects on human health and the environment that we still know little about.

Atom France, the Federation of Approved Air Quality Monitoring Associations, states, for example, that copper pollution can lead to serious skin problems.

Phosphorus, which is also used massively in fireworks, would lead to oxygen depletion in the water and an imbalance in local ecosystems.

At sea, divers each year recycle remnants of mortar or debris from rockets that are dangerous to the local fauna and flora. It is estimated that 10 and 20% of the waste is never collected.

+42% particles after a firework

On the other side of the Atlantic, we wonder, too. In 2015, US researchers published a study in the journal Science Direct. They measured the level of fine particles in the air after the national day on 4 July. Result: During the hour after the fireworks, the level of particles increased by 42% and returned to normal from the following day.

Atmo France temper and clarify “if a single firework does not have devastating consequences for the environment, it is the repetition of these shows that can lead to significant pollution“.

She adds that draws on the work of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, “in annual terms, the pollution from fireworks is less than that associated with other sources, such as road traffic. “

endangered birds

In addition, invisible pollution sometimes has fatal consequences for birds. Stress, collisions, abandonment of nests, they are particularly vulnerable during fireworks. In Rome on January 1, 2021, dozens of birds were killed after the annual pyrotechnic show.

For several years the association has Paris expensive Zoopolis challenges the mayor of Paris on the suffering inflicted on the animals on 31 December and 14 July. She asks for “less violent” and less noisy rockets.

Environmentally responsible fireworks

Faced with criticism, pyrotechnicians are trying to adapt and find more ecological alternatives. Modern fireworks now use compressed air to propel rockets.

Like Bordeaux, some cities require the use of cardboard to wrap lights. Finish plastic and aluminum.

Others sometimes choose more radical solutions. In the Rhône, a decree contains a ban on fireworks according to the level of pollution in the department. In June last year, it had thus been banned in the town of Fontaines-sur-Saône north of Lyon, which was planned for the music festival.

Leave a Comment