Fireworks are a class of explosive pyrotechnic devices used for aesthetic, cultural, and religious purposes. A fireworks event (also called a fireworks show or pyrotechnics) is a display of the effects produced by firework devices. Fireworks competitions are also regularly held at a number of places. Fireworks take many forms to produce the four primary effects: noise, light, smoke and floating materials (confetti for example.) They may be designed to burn with flames and sparks of many colors, typically red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, silver and gold. Displays are common throughout the world and are the focal point of many cultural and religious celebrations.
The earliest documentation of fireworks dates back to 7th century China, where they were invented. The fireworks were used to accompany many festivities. It is a part of the culture of China and had its origin there; eventually it spread to other cultures and societies. Important events and festivities such as the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) and the Mid-Autumn Festival were and still are times when fireworks are guaranteed sights. China is the largest manufacturer and exporter of fireworks in the world.
Fireworks are generally classified as to where they perform, either as a ground or aerial firework. In the latter case they may provide their own propulsion (skyrocket) or be shot into the air by a mortar (aerial shell). The most common feature of fireworks is a paper or pasteboard tube or casing filled with the combustible material, often pyrotechnic stars. A number of these tubes or cases are often combined so as to make, when kindled, a great variety of sparkling shapes, often variously colored. The skyrocket is a common form of firework, although the first skyrockets were used in war. Such rocket technology has also been used for the delivery of mail by rocket and is used as propulsion for most model rockets. The aerial shell is the backbone of today’s commercial aerial display. A smaller version for consumer use is known as the festival ball in the United States. There are also ground fireworks which, while less popular than aerial fireworks, can produce various shapes, like rotating circles, stars and 3D globes.
The earliest documentation of fireworks dates back to 7th century China, where they were invented. The fireworks were used to accompany many festivities. It is a part of the culture of China and had its origin there; eventually it spread to other cultures and societies. The art and science of firework making has developed into an independent profession. In China, pyrotechnicians were respected for their knowledge of complex techniques in mounting firework displays.
During the Song Dynasty (960–1279), many of the common people could purchase various kinds of fireworks from market vendors, and grand displays of fireworks were also known to be held. In 1110, a large fireworks display in a martial demonstration was held to entertain Emperor Huizong of Song (r. 1100–1125) and his court. A record from 1264 states that a rocket-propelled firework went off near the Empress Dowager Gong Sheng and startled her during a feast held in her honor by her son Emperor Lizong of Song (r. 1224–1264). Rocket propulsion was common in warfare, as evidenced by the Huolongjing compiled by Liu Ji (1311–1375) and Jiao Yu (fl. c. 1350–1412). In 1240 the Arabs acquired knowledge of gunpowder and its uses from China. A Syrian named Hasan al-Rammah wrote of rockets, fireworks, and other incendiaries, using terms that suggested he derived his knowledge from Chinese sources, such as his references to fireworks as "Chinese flowers".
With the development of chinoiserie in Europe, Chinese fireworks began to gain popularity around the mid-17th century. Lev Izmailov, ambassador of Peter the Great, once reported from China: "They make such fireworks that no one in Europe has ever seen." In 1758, the Jesuit missionary Pierre Nicolas le Chéron d’Incarville, living in Beijing, wrote about the methods and composition on how to make many types of Chinese fireworks to the Paris Academy of Sciences, which revealed and published the account five years later. His writings would be translated in 1765, resulting in the popularization of fireworks and further attempts to uncover the secrets of Chinese fireworks.
Amédée-François Frézier published his revised work Traité des feux d’artice pour le spectacle (Treatise on Fireworks) in 1747 (originally 1706), covering the recreational and ceremonial uses of fireworks, rather than their military uses.
Music for the Royal Fireworks was composed by George Frideric Handel in 1749 to celebrate the Peace treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, which had been declared the previous year.
Improper use of fireworks may be unsafe, both to the person operating them (risks of burns and wounds) and to bystanders; in addition, they may start fires after landing on flammable material. For this reason, the use of fireworks is generally legally restricted. Display fireworks are restricted by law for use by professionals; consumer items, available to the public, are smaller versions containing limited amounts of explosive material to reduce potential danger. Fireworks may pose a problem for animals, both domestic and wild, who can be terrified by the noise, leading to them running away or hurting themselves on fences or in other ways in an attempt to escape. With proper desensitization training the number of pets going missing due to fireworks can be reduced.
Pyrotechnical competitions involving fireworks are held in many countries. One of the most prestigious fireworks competitions is the Montreal Fireworks Festival, an annual competition held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Another magnificent competition is the Festival d’art pyrotechnique de Cannes held in the summer annually at the Bay of Cannes in Côte d’Azur, France. The World Pyro Olympics is an annual competition among the top fireworks companies in the world. It is held in Manila, Philippines. The event is one of the largest and most intense international fireworks competitions. DIFC DaNang International Fireworks Competition is held yearly in DaNang, Vietnam. Liuyang International Fireworks Competition held in Liuyang City, Hunan Province, China
Largest firework display of all time
Dubai during the 2014 New Years celebrations broke the record for the most fireworks ignited during a single coordinated display. According to Guinness World Records: "Covering a distance of over 94 km (58 mi) of the city’s seafront, the display incorporated some of Dubai’s top landmarks, including Palm Jumeirah, World Islands, the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab. Ten months in planning, over 500,000 fireworks were used during the display which lasted around six minutes, with Guinness World Records adjudicators on hand to confirm that a new record had been set."
Largest Catherine wheel
A self-propelled vertical firework wheel was designed by The Lily Fireworks Factory and fired for at least one revolution on the eve of the annual festival of Our Lady Of The Lilies. The Lily Fireworks Factory, Mqabba, Malta currently possesses this record, burning a Catherine Wheel with a diameter of 32.044 m (105 ft 1.6 in), on June 18, 2011.
Longest firework waterfall
The world’s longest firework waterfall was the ‘Niagara Falls’, which measured 3,517.23 m (11,539 ft 6 in) when ignited on August 23, 2008 at the Ariake Seas Fireworks Festival, Fukuoka, Japan.
Most firework rockets launched in 30 seconds.
The most firework rockets launched in 30 seconds is 125,801, organized by Pyroworks International Inc. (Philippines), in Cebu, Philippines, on May 8, 2010.
Largest firework rocket
The largest firework rocket is 13.40 kg (29.5 lb) and was produced and launched by Associação Nacional de Empresas de Produtos Explosivos (Portugal) at the 12th International Symposium on Fireworks in Oporto and Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal, on October 13, 2010.
Enthusiasts in the United States have formed clubs which unite hobbyists and professionals. The groups provide safety instruction and organize meetings and private “shoots” at remote premises where members shoot commercial fireworks as well as fire pieces of their own manufacture. Clubs secure permission to fire items otherwise banned by state or local ordinances. Competitions are held among members and between clubs, demonstrating everything from single shells to elaborate displays choreographed to music. One of the oldest clubs is CrackerJacks, Inc., organized in 1976 in the Eastern Seaboard region of the U.S.
Pyrotechnics Guild International
The Pyrotechnics Guild International, Inc. or PGI, founded in 1969, is an independent worldwide nonprofit organization of amateur and professional fireworks enthusiasts. It is notable for its large number of members, around 3,500 in total. The PGI exists solely to further the safe usage and enjoyment of both professional grade and consumer grade fireworks while both advancing the art and craft of pyrotechnics and preserving its historical aspects. Each August the PGI conducts its annual week-long convention, where some the world’s biggest and best fireworks displays occur. Vendors, competitors, and club members come from around the USA and from various parts of the globe to enjoy the show and to help out at this all-volunteer event. Aside from the nightly firework shows, the competition is a highlight of the convention. This is a completely unique event where individual classes of hand-built fireworks are competitively judged, ranging from simple fireworks rockets to extremely large and complex aerial shells. Some of the biggest, best, most intricate fireworks displays in the United States take place during the convention week.
Amateur and professional members can come to the convention to purchase fireworks, paper goods, novelty items, non-explosive chemical components and much more at the PGI trade show. Before the nightly fireworks displays and competitions, club members have a chance to enjoy open shooting of any and all legal consumer or professional grade fireworks, as well as testing and display of hand-built fireworks. The week ends with the Grand Public Display on Friday night, which gives the chosen display company a chance to strut their stuff in front of some of the world’s biggest fireworks aficionados. The stakes are high and much planning is put into the show. In 1994 a shell of 36 inches (910 mm) in diameter was fired during the convention, more than twice as large as the largest shell usually seen in the USA, and shells as large as 24 inches (610 mm) are frequently fired.
Western Pyrotechnic Association
Because of enthusiasm for display fireworks west of the Rocky Mountains, The WPA was formed in 1989 in part because of the travel distances required to attend PGI events in the U.S. Mid-West. The organization sponsors two major firework events per year, almost always at Lake Havasu, Arizona. Activities are similar (except sometimes in scale) to those at PGI conventions. Most members of the WPA are firework professionals, who claim it’s essential to have a few opportunities per year to perform shows strictly for fun, as well as for other pros. Many of these men and women like to teach workshops (including manufacturing workshops) during these events as well.
Fireworks play a major role during the ceremonies for the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. In the opening ceremonies, the fireworks will go off all across the stadium when a person declares the competition open. This also occurs when the cauldron is officially lit by an athlete at the end of the ceremony with the Olympic Torch. In the closing ceremonies, the fireworks appear once again at the end when the flame is extinguished.
Fireworks celebrations throughout the world
Japanese fireworks festivals
During the summer in Japan, fireworks festivals (花火大会 hanabi taikai?) are held nearly every day someplace in the country, in total numbering more than 200 during August. The festivals consist of large fireworks shows, the largest of which use between 100,000 and 120,000 rounds (PL Art of Fireworks), and can attract more than 800,000 spectators. Street vendors set up stalls to sell various drinks and staple Japanese food (such as Yakisoba, Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki, kakigori (shaved ice), and traditionally held festival games, such as Kingyo-sukui, or Goldfish scooping.
Even today, men and women attend these events wearing the traditional Yukata, summer Kimono, or Jinbei (men only), collecting in large social circles of family or friends to sit picnic-like, eating and drinking, while watching the show.
The first fireworks festival in Japan was held in 1733.
Indian fireworks celebrations
Indians throughout the world celebrate with fireworks as part of their popular "festival of lights" (Diwali) on new – moon day (Amavasya) of Aswayuja month which generally falls in Oct–Nov every year. Quieter varieties of fireworks are more popular for this festival as its a festival of light celebrated on the new moon night. It is the festival of Hindu religion.
Philippines fireworks celebrations
The World Pyro Olympics is an annual fireworks competition held in the Philippines which runs for five days. Every day, there would be two competitors from around the world who battle to set up the grandest possible fireworks display. The host of the event does not participate in the competition but performs a fireworks display on the last night. Awards, such as the People’s Choice, are given out after the exhibition. The crowning of the World Pyro Olympics Champion ends the event.
Singapore fireworks celebrations
The Singapore Fireworks Celebrations (previously the Singapore Fireworks Festival) is an annual event held in Singapore as part of its National Day celebrations. The festival features local and foreign teams which launch displays on different nights. While currently non-competitive in nature, the organizer has plans to introduce a competitive element in the future.
The annual festival has grown in magnitude, from 4,000 rounds used in 2004, 6,000 in 2005, to over 9,100 in 2006.
United Kingdom fireworks festivals
One of the biggest occasions for fireworks in Great Britain is Guy Fawkes Night held each year on November 5, while the biggest in Northern Ireland takes place at Halloween. Guy Fawkes Night is a celebration of the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot on November 5, 1605, an attempt to kill King James I.
There are many firework societies in the counties of East Sussex and West Sussex which were at one time a single county. The societies predate the county boundary changes and are still known collectively as Sussex Bonfire Societies.
United States fireworks celebrations
America’s earliest settlers brought their enthusiasm for fireworks to the United States. Fireworks and black ash were used to celebrate important events long before the American Revolutionary War. The very first celebration of Independence Day was in 1777, six years before Americans knew whether the new nation would survive the war; fireworks were a part of all festivities. In 1789, George Washington’s inauguration was also accompanied by a fireworks display. This early fascination with their noise and color continues today. On New Year’s Eve, there are special fireworks shows to signal the arrival of the New Year at the stroke of midnight like the famous ball drop in New York City’s Times Square.
In 1976, Macy’s sponsored the annual fireworks show from New York City and is televised live on NBC since its debut. Over three million people came to see the show in person, while the telecast on NBC attracted millions of viewers. The show takes place in the East River and the Hudson River.
In 1999, Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, pioneered the commercial use of aerial fireworks launched with compressed air rather than gunpowder for the Epcot night time spectacular, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. The display shell explodes in the air using an electronic timer. The advantages of compressed air launch are a reduction in fumes, and much greater accuracy in height and timing.
The Walt Disney Company is the largest consumer of fireworks in the United States.
Currently, the largest annual pyrotechnic display in North America is Thunder Over Louisville which kicks off the Kentucky Derby Festival.
The second largest fireworks display in North America is Cincinnati Bell/WEBN Riverfest fireworks display. This incredible pyrotechnic display takes place over the Ohio river between the border of Ohio (Cincinnati) and Kentucky (Covington). It attracts over 500,000 people each year and over 2,500 viewers by boat. It is televised on WLWT and broadcast over the internet for millions of viewers. This annual event has taken place Labor Day weekend since 1977.
Every year, on the 4th of July, Pyrotechnic Innovations has a live webcam that shows a crew setting up a professional fireworks display. It gives a behind the scenes look at what goes into a large display.
One of the world’s largest fireworks companies, Zambelli Fireworks, is based in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Subsequently, due to Zambelli’s influence in the fireworks industry, New Castle is known as the "Fireworks Capital of America," a name the city government trademarked in 2006.
In the United States, fireworks displays are a popular patriotic tradition on the Fourth of July, but almost all of the fireworks exploded in the US are hand-made in China. An American’s invention to automate the process, patented in both the U.S. and China, has generated similar devices but no sales in China.
Seoul International Firework Festival
Seoul International Firework Festival has been held since last 2000. It was held at the Han River on October 7, 2000 with 4 major country’s participating for the first time. South Korea, United States, Japan, and China took part in this festival hoping to successfully hold the upcoming 2002 South Korea&Japan Worldcup and for the harmony of Korean people.
From 2000, the festival has been held in the same area, and not only the citizens of seoul but includes other provinces. people from abroad also enjoy one of the most beautiful fireworks festival in the world.
North Korea Firework Festival
Fireworks have been used in Kaesong on Buddha’s Birthday (April 8).
Fireworks safety is considered to be extremely important in Canada. The use, storage and sale of commercial-grade fireworks in Canada is licensed by Natural Resources Canada’s Explosive Regulatory Division (ERD). Unlike their consumer counterpart, commercial-grade fireworks function differently, and come in a wide range of sizes from 50 mm (2.0 in) up to 300 mm (12 in) or more in diameter.
Commercial grade fireworks require a "Fireworks Operator certificate", obtained from the ERD by completing a one day safety course. The certification system consists of three levels: Assistant, Supervisor, and Supervisor with Endorsements. Assistants can only work under direct supervision of a Supervisor. Supervisor certification is gained after assisting three shows within the past five years. Supervisors can independently use and fire most commercial grade pyrotechnics. Supervisor with Endorsements certification can be obtained after supervising three shows within the past five years, and allows the holder to fire from barges, bridges, rooftops and over unusual sites.
Since commercial-grade fireworks are shells which are loaded into separate mortars by hand, there is danger in every stage of the setup. Setup of these fireworks involves: the placement and securing of mortars on wooden or wire racks; loading of the shells; and if electronically firing, wiring and testing. The mortars are generally made of FRE (Fiber-Reinforced Epoxy) or HDPE (High-Density Polyethelene), some older mortars are made of sheet steel, but have been banned by most countries due to the problem of shrapnel produced during a misfire.
Setup of mortars in Canada for an oblong firing site require that a mortar be configured at an angle of 10 to 15 degrees down-range with a safety distance of at least 200 meters (660 feet) down-range and 100 meters (330 feet) surrounding the mortars, plus distance adjustments for wind speed and direction. In June 2007, the ERD approved circular firing sites for use with vertically fired mortars with a safety distance of at least 175 meters (574 feet) radius, plus distance adjustments for wind speed and direction.
Loading of shells is a delicate process, and must be done with caution, and a loader must ensure not only the mortar is clean, but also make sure that no part of their body is directly over the mortar in case of a premature fire. Wiring the shells is a painstaking process; whether the shells are being fired manually or electronically, with any "chain fusing" or wiring of electrical igniters care must be taken to prevent the fuse (an electrical match, often incorrectly called a squib) from igniting. If the setup is wired electrically, the electrical matches are usually plugged into a "firing rail" or "breakout box" which runs back to the main firing board; from there, the firing board is simply hooked up to a car battery, and can proceed with firing the show when ready. After the display, the operators must ensure the site is inspected for misfired or unfired materials within 30 minutes of the conclusion of the show. Further, they must return the next day, during daylight, to reinspect the area again.
Safety of consumer fireworks in Great Britain
The safety of consumer fireworks in England, Scotland, and Wales is always a widely discussed topic around Guy Fawkes Night, November 5. The most common injuries are burns from hand-held fireworks such as sparklers. There are also injuries due to people being hit by projectiles fired from fireworks, although these can usually be explained by people setting up fireworks incorrectly. Other issues include the dangers of falling rocket sticks, especially from larger rockets containing metal motors.
"Shock" adverts have been used for many years in an attempt to restrict injuries from fireworks, especially targeted at young people. The vast majority of fireworks are "Category 3, (Display Fireworks)" all of which state that spectators must be at least 25 meters (82 feet) away when the firework is fired. This is a safety concern as few people have access to that amount of private space. Other categories include "Category 2 (Garden Fireworks)" for which spectators must be a minimum of 8 meters (26 feet 3 inches) away when the firework is fired, and "Category 4 – Professional Use Only". Any firework classed as Category 4 may only be used by professional pyrotechnists and must not be sold to the general public.
Safety of commercial and display fireworks in the United Kingdom
In the UK, responsibility for the safety of firework displays is shared between the Health and Safety Executive, fire brigades and local authorities. Currently, there is no national system of licensing for fireworks operators, but in order to purchase display fireworks, operators must have licensed explosives storage and public liability insurance.
Availability and use of consumer fireworks are hotly debated topics. Critics and safety advocates point to the numerous injuries and accidental fires that are attributed to fireworks as justification for banning or at least severely restricting access to fireworks. Complaints about excessive noise created by fireworks and the large amounts of debris and fallout left over after shooting are also used to support this position. There are numerous incidents of consumer fireworks being used in a manner that is supposedly disrespectful of the communities and neighborhoods where the users live.
Meanwhile, those who support more liberal firework laws look at the same statistics as the critics and conclude that, when used properly, consumer fireworks are a safer form of recreation than riding bicycles or playing soccer.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has guidelines concerning the standard of consumer fireworks sold in the US. Together with US Customs, they are very proactive in enforcing these rules, intercepting imported fireworks that don’t comply and issuing recalls on unacceptable consumer fireworks that are found to have "slipped through". Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the federal agency that regulates explosives, including Display Fireworks in the US.
Many states have laws which further restrict access to and use of consumer fireworks, and some of these states such as New Jersey vigorously enforce them. Each year, there are many raids on individuals suspected of illegally possessing fireworks.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) as well as the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have general jurisdiction over what types of fireworks may be legally sold in the United States. The federal law is only the minimum standard however, and each state is free to enact laws that are more stringent if they so choose. Citing concerns over fireworks safety, some states, such as California, have enacted legislation restricting fireworks usage to devices that do not leave the ground, such as fountains. North Carolina limits fireworks to a charge of 200 grams (7.1 ounces) of black powder. States such as New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Delaware ban all consumer fireworks completely. Rhode Island and Arizona have recently passed bills legalizing certain types of small fireworks. On the other hand, states such as New Hampshire, South Dakota, South Carolina and Tennessee allow most or all legal consumer fireworks to be sold and used throughout the year. Michigan has recently overturned its ban on fireworks that leave the ground, allowing for the sale and use for the 1st time in 2012. New Mexico in some cases, will not allow fireworks from individual residents if the fireworks are said to detonate over 5 feet (1.5 m) in height.
Illinois only permits sparklers, snake/glow worm pellets, smoke devices, trick noisemakers, and plastic or paper caps. However, many users travel to neighboring states such as Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, and Wisconsin to obtain fireworks for use in Illinois. This situation is similar to the plight of many St. Louis residents as fireworks are illegal within both city and county limits. However, fireworks are readily available in nearby St. Charles County.
Pennsylvania is somewhere in between; the law only allows fireworks that don’t leave the ground to be sold and used by residents. Yet residents from out of state and Pennsylvania residents with a permit can buy any consumer fireworks from an outlet.
Differences in legislation among states have led many fireworks dealers to set up shop along state borders in order to attract customers from neighboring states where fireworks are restricted. Some Native American tribes on reservation lands show similar behavior, often selling fireworks that are not legal for sale outside of the reservation.
The type of fireworks sold in the United States vary widely, from fireworks which are legal under federal law, all the way to illegal explosive devices/professional fireworks that are sold on the black market. Both the illicit manufacture and diversion of illegal explosives to the consumer market have become a growing problem in recent years.
Fireworks produce smoke and dust that may contain residues of heavy metals, sulfur-coal compounds and some low concentration toxic chemicals. These by-products of fireworks combustion will vary depending on the mix of ingredients of a particular firework. (The color green, for instance, may be produced by adding the various compounds and salts of Barium, some of which are toxic, and some of which are not.) Some fishermen have noticed and reported to environmental authorities that firework residues can hurt fish and other water-life because some may contain toxic compounds such as antimony sulfide[disambiguation needed]. This is a subject of much debate because large-scale pollution from other sources makes it difficult to measure the amount of pollution that comes specifically from fireworks. The possible toxicity of any fallout may also be affected by the amount of black powder used, type of oxidizer, colors produced and launch method.
Fireworks have also been noted as a source of perchlorate in lakes. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Richard Wilkin and colleagues have conducted research on the use of pyrotechnic devices over bodies of water, noting concerns over the effects of environmental perchlorate on human health and wildlife. Sources of perchlorate range from lightning and certain fertilizers to the perchlorate compounds in rocket fuel and explosives. Scientists long suspected community fireworks displays were another source, but few studies had been done on the topic. Wilkin’s group has now established fireworks displays as a source of perchlorate contamination by analyzing water in an Oklahoma lake before and after fireworks displays in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Within 14 hours after the fireworks, perchlorate levels rose 24 to 1,028 times above background levels. Levels peaked about 24 hours after the display, and then decreased to the pre-fireworks background within 20 to 80 days. The study is detailed in the June 1, 2007 issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology. (Environ. Sci. Technol., 2007, 41 (11), pp 3966–3971)
Perchlorate, a type of salt in its solid form, dissolves and moves rapidly in groundwater and surface water. Even in low concentrations in drinking water supplies, perchlorate is known to inhibit the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland. While there are currently no federal drinking water standards for perchlorate, some states have established public health goals, or action levels, and some are in the process of establishing state maximum contaminant levels. For example, the US Environmental Protection Agency conducted studies on the impacts of perchlorate on the environment as well as drinking water. California has also issued guidance regarding perchlorate use.
Several states have enacted drinking water standard for perchlorate including Massachusetts in 2006. California’s legislature enacted AB 826, the Perchlorate Contamination Prevention Act of 2003, requiring California’s Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) to adopt regulations specifying best management practices for perchlorate and perchlorate-containing substances. The Perchlorate Best Management Practices were adopted on December 31, 2005 and became operative on July 1, 2006. California issued drinking water standards in 2007. Several other states, including Arizona, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Texas have established non-enforceable, advisory levels for perchlorate.
The courts have also taken action with regard to perchlorate contamination. For example, in 2003, a federal district court in California found that Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) applied because perchlorate is ignitable and therefore a “characteristic” hazardous waste. (see Castaic Lake Water Agency v. Whittaker, 272 F. Supp. 2d 1053, 1059–61 (C.D. Cal. 2003)).
Pollutants from fireworks raise concerns because of potential health risks associated with hazardous by-products. For most people the effects of exposure to low levels of toxins from many sources over long periods are unknown. For persons with asthma or multiple chemical sensitivity the smoke from fireworks may aggravate existing health problems. Environmental pollution is also a concern because heavy metals and other chemicals from fireworks may contaminate water supplies and because fireworks combustion gases might contribute to such things as acid rain which can cause vegetation and even property damage. However, gunpowder smoke and the solid residues are basic, and as such the net effect of fireworks on acid rain is debatable. The carbon used in fireworks is produced from wood and does not lead to more carbon dioxide in the air. What is not disputed is that most consumer fireworks leave behind a considerable amount of solid debris, including both readily biodegradable components as well as nondegradable plastic items. Concerns over pollution, consumer safety, and debris have restricted the sale and use of consumer fireworks in many countries. Professional displays, on the other hand, remain popular around the world.
Others argue that alleged concern over pollution from fireworks constitutes a red herring, since the amount of contamination from fireworks is minuscule in comparison to emissions from sources such as the burning of fossil fuels. In the US some states and local governments restrict the use of fireworks in accordance with the Clean Air Act which allows laws relating to the prevention and control of outdoor air pollution to be enacted. Few governmental entities, by contrast, effectively limit pollution from burning fossil fuels such as diesel fuel or coal. Coal fueled electricity generation alone is a much greater source of heavy metal contamination in the environment than fireworks.
Some companies within the U.S. fireworks industry claim they are working with Chinese manufacturers to reduce and ultimately hope to eliminate of the pollutant perchlorate.
In February 2013, the China News Service reported that residents of the capital city Beijing were asked to reduce fireworks during the traditional Lantern Festival due to record air pollution.[
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