Firecrackers and fireworks, which for some symbolize the celebration of the start of a new year, are toxic showers that should not be underestimated, according to scientists at the Academy of Sciences. They say an alarming amount of harmful substances enter the air annually through this route. They are therefore calling for a ban or a significant restriction on fireworks.
“Firework smog represents a bizarre mixture of compounds with a great health risk, which otherwise could not be present in the air at all,” warned Petr Klusoň from the Institute of Chemical Processes of the CAS, adding that if an industrial enterprise were to produce such quantities, it could face legal proceedings and closure.
He said fireworks are a “strange mix of poisons and carcinogens” that people inhale without knowing it.
Based on pyrotechnics consumption, scientists have calculated that 12.5 metric tons of magnesium, 0.8 metric tons of titanium, and 1.2 metric tons of rubidium enter the air in our country every year due to fireworks.
To make the lighting effects colorful, 10.5 tons of barium, used for green products, are also released. A tonne of strontium causes red marks, and 0.5 tonne of copper causes blue effects. There is also red phosphorus, sulfur, powdered zinc, and other substances.
“The barium increases up to 580 times in adverse weather conditions compared to the normal ‘background’ in the air during a 45-minute fireworks display. For copper, these values tend to be somewhat lower, with a 70- to 90-fold increase, as well as for strontium and rubidium,” Kluson said.
As well as being harmful to the air, pyrotechnics contaminate water and soil, causing toxic substances to enter the food chain.
“It must be stressed that without fireworks, many of the elements mentioned above would not be present in the environment in measurable quantities,” said Martin Pivokonský, a hydrochemist.
Scientists are therefore calling for a fundamental restriction or ban on fireworks and reminding that thanks to the existence of light shows or holograms, there is an adequate substitute that is also respectful of animals.