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Fireworks over Los Angeles

Fireworks – A Toxic Tradition?

I was in town for the 4th of July this year. Usually I’m celebrating our freedom by backpacking at around 9,000 feet in the pristine silence of the Sierras over the 4th of July holiday. I had no idea Los Angeles turned into a war zone in my absence. We celebrate with fireworks. The literal sound of bombs bursting in air is the sign of our celebration. It’s a beautiful sight, but a few things occurred to me as I watched the pretty colors explode over our city:

Fireworks over Los Angeles
Fireworks over Los Angeles

The Effect:

1) What must this cacophony trigger for our soldiers who have experienced true warfare? It sounded like a war zone, but we know we’re safe here. We are fortunate to have never (aside from these 5 specific occurrences during WWII) experienced actual bombs raining down on us from overhead here in America. Specific targets, yes. Gang shooting, yes. But not all-out war. We’re lucky that way. Not many countries can say that.

We already know that fireworks scare the heck out of our pets. Recently I heard that it also affects wildlife in general. Birds, deer, and all our urban creatures are affected. Will my chickens skip laying a day or two as a result? As a homesteader, I think of these things. Humans with PTSD…I can’t even imagine how they deal with it.

The solution: What if we explored silent fireworks for our future?

Sylvia, Anabelle and Wilma make themselves at home.
Curious chickens don’t know what happened last night.

The Environmental Impact:

2) Aside from noise pollution, what is the result of all the explosions in the sky? How does this affect our waterways and the air we breathe? I found this article which explores the question. All those pretty colors are created with heavy metals. Barium, Cadmium, Aluminum, as well as perchlorates (which cause thyroid issues) and dioxins (carcinogenic, hormone disruption) are used to make fireworks. What goes up must come down, right? Several studies mentioned in the article showed spikes in toxin levels in waterways and the air following fireworks shows.

Fireworks 2

Driving home after the event, I watched a rocket shoot across the road in front of us and land in someone’s front yard. We didn’t stop to see if it caught fire. Desert counties in Colorado and Arizona have swapped out fireworks shows for laser light displays set to music instead to reduce risk of fires. As many other areas with reduced rainfall become drier, it’s something we’ll need to consider.

There are alternatives to our traditions. We’ve stopped smoking on airplanes, we’ve stopped using leaded gasoline, we’ve stopped using leeches to cure illness. Maybe it’s time to reconsider how we celebrate our freedom, and to create new traditions that support our well-being and our planet’s health. Got any ideas? Share them below.

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